The Norman Transcript

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November 23, 2012

Study: Pregnant teens need better support

(Continued)

MIAMI —

California lawmakers slashed a successful program for such students in 2008, ruling it was no longer mandatory, and allowed school districts to use the money for other programs.

More than 100,000 pregnant and parenting students have participated in the program that helps them with classwork and connects them with social services. It boasted a 73 percent graduation rate in 2010 — close to the state’s normal rate — and advocates said participants were less reliant on welfare and less likely to become pregnant again.

That compares to several counties where only 30 percent of pregnant and parenting teens graduated.

“It’s unfortunate that this effective program fell prey to the enormous budget challenges we are facing as a state,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

Three years ago in Wisconsin, cost-cutting lawmakers dropped a requirement for school districts to give pregnant students who live within two miles of a school building free rides to school. The requirement had been part of an effort to improve access to education and reduce infant mortality rates.

Less than half of the states have programs that send home assignments to homebound or hospitalized student parents, according to the study.

In almost half of the states, including Idaho, Nevada, Nebraska, South Dakota and Utah, the definition of excused absences is not broad enough to include pregnant and parenting students. That typically results in a patchwork of policies where some school districts don’t excuse absences even if the student is in the hospital giving birth, according to the study.

But a few states have developed programs to help improve graduate rates among pregnant girls and young mothers.

In Washington, D.C., caseworkers in the New Heights Teen Parent Program often stand by the school entrance or text pregnant students and young moms to make sure they are attending classes.

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