The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Potential Impact on Education in California’s Public Schools
The prevention of teen births and sexually transmitted infections amongst California’s youth has been a long-standing social and economic issue. Despite a steady decline from 1991, when California’s teen birth rate reached a record high of 70.9 births per year, California’s teen birth rate had nevertheless remained much higher than other wealthy countries. However, in 2012, as a result of numerous programs aimed at teenage pregnancy prevention, the California Department of Health proudly announced that California’s teen birth rate dropped to a record low.
By achieving this record low, California decision makers have recognized the important role that public schools have played in protecting the sexual health of young people. Many have attributed the continuing decline in teen birthrates to the increased presence of sex education programs in public school curriculums. With the passing of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), Californians can expect to see an increase in such programs.
Under the PPACA, each state will be allotted a minimum of $250,000 per fiscal year in furtherance of Personal Responsibility Education Programs. Programs funded by such allotments include those designed to educate adolescents on the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Furthermore, as mandated, such programs must place substantial emphasis on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy among youth.
A growing concern regarding the content of such programs has surfaced and given rise to a divide aligned with the policy platforms of our nations dominate political parties. Opponents to the PPACA, in particular pro-life groups, view this funding as a threat to children’s education. These groups foresee that Planned Parenthood will become the primary teacher of these Personal Responsibility Education Programs and thus reap the benefits of such allotments. This perceived threat accompanying Planned Parenthood’s increased participation in sex education is premised upon the belief that children will be taught that “having sex before marriage is a good thing – as long as they are responsible,” thus, resulting in the extinction of teachings of abstinence.
As irrational as these concerns may seem to some, the breadth of sex education programs in California is vast. Currently, California Education Code section 51933 outlines the parameters for sex education in California public schools. Under Section 51933, as long as instruction is appropriate for all genders, races, and sexual orientations, sex education programs can be taught to children as early as Kindergarten. This flexibility has resulted in school districts implementing sex education curriculums that meet the needs of gay, lesbian, transgender, and questioning youth. For example, San Francisco United School District’s sex education curriculum encompasses material such as, “My Two Uncles,” and it approved a first-grade field trip to city hall in which students participated in their teacher’s marriage to her same-sex partner.
Ultimately parents have a right, per California Education Code 51933 to excuse their children from these types of Personal Responsibility Education Programs. But, perhaps now more than ever, due to the breadth of curriculum approved under California Education Code 51933 and the increased funding provided by the PPACA, parents need to become more cognizant of what their children are actually being taught and become more proactive in their child’s education.
 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Pub. L. No. 111-148, 124 Stat. 119, (2010). To receive such an allotment, States must submit an application with the Secretary which includes the most recent rates for both teen pregnancy and birth, as well as the State’s established goals for reducing those rates amongst the targeted teenage population. Should a State fail to submit an application, the State will no longer be eligible to receive the allotments, however, grants from unexpended allotments may be awarded by the Secretary of Health and Human Services to organizations and entities to conduct programs and activities in States that do not submit an application for an allotment under this section. In accepting such grants, these organizations or entities agree to participate in rigorous Federal evaluation. Such evaluation requires cooperation with requirements relating to the collection of data and information and reporting outcomes regarding the programs and activities carried out with such funds.
The Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, Teen Births In California: A Resource for Planning and Policy, http://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/mcah/Documents/MO-TeenBirthsinCalifornia.pdf. In 2005, California’s teen birth rate was eight times that of Japan and Netherlands.
California Department of Public Health, California’s Teen Birth Rate Drops to Record Low, http://www.cdph.ca.gov/Pages/NR12-012.aspx. By 2010, the rate declined to 29.0 births for every 1,000 females ages 15-19.
Steven Ertelt, Planned Parenthood to Teach More Sex-Ed Classes Thanks to Obamacare, LifeNews.Com, Sept. 17, 2012, http://www.lifenews.com/2012/09/17/planned-parenthood-to-teach-more-sex-ed-classes-thanks-to-obamacare/.
Jim Sedalk, A Government-Funded Threat, One News Now, http://www.onenewsnow.com/perspectives/miscellaneous/a-government-funded-threat.
Stealth Lessons on Homosexuality, World Net Weekly, Sept. 22, 2012, http://www.wnd.com/2009/05/96803/.
Michael Foust, San Francisco First Grade Takes Trip to “Gay Wedding,” Christian Examiner Online, Nov. 2008, http://www.christianexaminer.com/Articles/Articles%20Nov08/Art_Nov08_11.html.
Cal. Educ. Code 51933.