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Education Reporter

Bush Seeks Double Funding for Abstinence Education
President Bush has called for increasing federal spending on abstinence education to $273 million in the 2005 fiscal year. In his January 20 State of the Union address, the president said, "We will double federal funding for abstinence programs, so schools can teach this fact of life: Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases."

His proposal would also move the programs into the same agency within the Health and Human Services Department that oversees religious-based programs and his proposal to promote marriage. The administration's 2005 budget proposal, released in February, followed up on the State of the Union promise.

The teenage birth rate has fallen by 30% in the past decade and is now at the lowest level ever recorded. Critics of the Bush proposal assert that both abstinence and contraception are responsible for that shift and that abstinence-only programs may not work.

Newark gives it a try 
However, faced with a persistently high teen birth rate in Newark, public schools there decided it was time for a new approach and rolled out an abstinence-only sex-education program for 9th graders this year. The Choice Game urges students to sign a pledge of chastity until they marry.

The program, using interactive videos and hip-hop music, was created last year by Kathy DiFiore of Bergen County, N.J., who runs four homes for pregnant teenagers, and was first used in Catholic schools. A $2.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funded the program's launch in Newark public schools. Districts in Ohio and Chicago have signed on to use the program. (bergentowns.com, 10-6-03)

National 'Day of Purity' 
Day of Purity Shirt
The day before Valentine's Day, thousands of high school students across the country wore white T-shirts to school to signal their commitment to avoid sex outside of marriage, and distributed pro-abstinence pamphlets to their peers. The "Day of Purity" was organized by the Orlando, FL-based Liberty Counsel and supported by Christian groups nationwide.

Gay activist groups were not amused. "The word 'purity' in this context is morally self-righteous," said Alice Leeds, spokeswoman for Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. "It's redefining it in their context to conform to a frankly bigoted agenda." (lasvegassun.com, 2-13-04)

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