This series was Co-Produced by Freelance Reporter Andy Kopsa.
House Bill 999, is the bill adopted to implement sex education in Mississippi schools. This series will explore the intersection of race, religion and policy in the discussion about this controversial topic in Mississippi.
In this segment, freelance journalist Andy Kopsa talks to Betti Waters, president of the Mississippi Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Waters and her organization have been part of the sex education conversation for several years. Much of their work involved behind-the-scenes conversations with state legislators about the bill that became House Bill 999.
That bill became law, and in a couple weeks students will head back to the classroom where either Abstinence Only, or Abstinence Plus sex education is now required. Betti Waters starts by talking with Andy Kopsa about how the Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy got started.
Mississippi allocated more money to abstinence-only programs than to abstinence-plus. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services' federal grant-tracking search engine (TAGGS), Mississippi received $739,000 through the Affordable Care Act ACA to implement abstinence-only-until-marriage programs in public schools. The grant guidelines stipulate Mississippi must match the federal funds with state funds at a rate of $3 state dollars to every federal $1. This translates into Mississippians spending around $554,000 in 2012 to teach abstinence-only programs that have not been proven effective. And with the addition of the matching funds, abstinence-only in Mississippi stands to gain over $1.2 million in public support.
By comparison, Mississippi only received around $520,000 PREP (Personal Responsibility Education Program) funds to implement comprehensive sex-ed. And unlike Title V ab-only grants, the PREP guidelines do not require any state matching funds.
It will be some time before Mississippi is able to gather data from this first year of HB 999 implementation. However, existing studies on sexual education suggest that abstinence-plus, even with its diminished capacity, will ultimately prove more effective in reducing teen pregnancy and disease transmission than abstinence-only.
This series was funded by a grant from the Knight Program in Media and Religion at the University of Southern California.