Monday, February 14

Balancing the Budget on the Backs of our Children

Published on Sunday, February 13, 2005 by
Bush's Hit List: Teens and Kids
by Laura Flanders

They call it Bush's budget, but a better word would be hit list. Who's on it? Teens and kids.

Bush's '06 budget calls for cuts in emergency medical services for children, cuts in K-12 education funding, cuts in vocational education and likely, Head Start. There are food-stamp cuts and a five-year freeze on child care. A $41 million college loan program is eliminated. The whole National Youth Sports Program, which has provided athletics for low income kids is cut, as in cut out.

Saturday's New York Times fronts a frightening story about a new aggressive strain of HIV that may relate to methamphetamine use. (The first case has shown up in a homosexual man who had a lot of unsafe sex on crystal meth.) What's on W's budget chopping block? Programs that combat meth use and unsafe sex. Bush's budget shrinks the methamephetamine "hot spots" program by 60 percent. It would zero out the Safe and Drug Free Schools program which provides money to reduce drug use and violence among youth.

John Walters, the President's top drug advisor said that Safe and Drug Free Schools "does not have demonstrable results." Producing no studies to back his allegations up, the President repeats that his administration's only cutting programs which are ineffective. He said again this week that his budget is all and only about results. But on the safe-sex front, one of the only domestic programs he's expanding has had no demonstrable impact, except of the negative sort.

In 2005, Congress appropriated about $130 million to sponsor "abstinence-only education." Instead of sex-ed, these Clinton-era programs are set on scaring kids off sex. On coming into office the Bush administration ended scientific-tracking of "abstinence only" and replaced tracking of pregnancy and other outcomes with assessments of students' "attitudes" towards sex instead. Congressman Henry Waxman looked at what taxpayers are paying for and found that the most-used curricula trade more in myth and ideology than science. A popular program "teaches" that half of all gay male teenagers in the US are HIV positive.

That's bunk. They've been "teaching" that touching a genitals can get girls pregnant. The result? Terrified, and dangerously misinformed kids.

Shelby Knox, from Lubbock, Texas lives in the STD capital of her state. It has the highest teen pregnancy rates, the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases. "In 7th grade, we were given a love, sex and dating seminar," she told Air America Radio. "The pastor goes "sex is bad. Sexuality is bad. He insinuates that if you have sex before marriage you'll go to hell and if you masturbate, it'll turn you into a "selfish lover" and may cause your partner to commit suicide later in life." Because Knox's school depends on federal funds, teachers can't mention condoms - except to talk up failure rates - and they can't discuss birth control or safer sex. Sick or pregnant kids had no idea where to go for help until Knox started her own peer-group counseling service.

Knox's story (which is the subject of a PBS documentary to air this summer) is typical. An ongoing study by the Texas Dept of Health found that about 23 percent of 9th-grade girls had sex before experiencing the scare-kids-off sex program. After taking the course, 29 percent of girls in the same group said they had had sex. With boys in tenth grade the numbers went from 24 percent to 39 percent. Other studies have shown that the sex kids have after going through the program is more, not less likely to be unsafe.

Who's on the White House enemies list? Poor kids, and those who teach them athletics or talk to them about drugs or safer-sex. But the dangerous ideologues who are putting our youth in danger are thriving. "Abstinence education" is slated to receive $205.5 million in 06, an increase of nearly 25 percent.

Laura Flanders is host of The Laura Flanders Show heard weekends, on Air America Radio.

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