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Women's Group Combats Pregnant Drop-out Rate

WASHINGTON - The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) announced its support for the Pregnant and Parenting Students’ Access to Education Act (HR 5894) introduced in the House by Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO). This bill aims to address the educational and related needs of pregnant and parenting teens to improve graduation rates and chances of success for those students and their children.

Teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. recently rose for the first time in over a decade.  The statistics are alarming:  nearly 3 in 10 girls become pregnant at least once before age 20. And pregnancy is a significant risk factor for dropout. Only 51 percent of women who have children as teenagers get a high school diploma by age 22 compared to 89 percent of teens who do not give birth. Low graduation rates lead to serious short and long-term economic and health consequences for entire families, communities and our nation. The prospects of becoming employed and earning a living wage are poor for those without a high school diploma, and their children are more likely to drop out of school themselves.

“Many pregnant and parenting teens face enormous barriers to enrolling, attending, and succeeding in school,” said Marcia Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC).  “They face the daunting challenges of juggling schoolwork with the rigorous demands of caring for an infant or toddler, the financial challenges of supporting a child, and the difficulty of finding affordable child care. Far too many still face illegal sex discrimination, harassment, and fall prey to the prevalent stereotypes that they cannot succeed.  These hurdles are steep and suggest why so many students fall between the cracks of an educational system that fails to address these very real needs. Only a fraction of school districts undertake serious efforts to help these vulnerable students, and it’s high time that they do. This bill offers a critical lifeline to at-risk students and improves the chances that they will graduate ready for college and careers.”

The Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act articulates a clear objective: to improve high school graduation rates and access to postsecondary educational and career opportunities. The legislation will set up a grant program to get needed funds to states and local school districts. Among other things, grantees will be expected to offer academic support and related services to pregnant and parenting students, to designate a coordinator to oversee the education of pregnant and parenting students, and to revise school policies to remove barriers, some of which discriminate based on pregnancy in violation of Title IX.  It aims to change the culture at schools, so that these students are no longer stigmatized and instead are encouraged to reach their educational goals. It also will help parenting students secure affordable child care and transportation services, and will invest resources in outreach to increase the enrollment and retention of pregnant and parenting students in school.

The Center urges the House Education and Labor Committee to move quickly to enact this bill.

 

 

 

The National Women's Law Center is a non-profit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women's legal rights.  The Center focuses on major policy areas of importance to women and their families including economic security, education, employment and health, with special attention given to the concerns of low-income women.  For more information on the Center, visit:  www.nwlc.org.



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