Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
March 2, 2009
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Senator Ellis and Representative Castro: Let's Do What Works for Teens
Education Works Act Ensures Accurate Sex Education and Information

AUSTIN — On the heels of another report demonstrating the consequences of abstinence-only education, State Senator Rodney Ellis and State Representative Joaquin Castro today urged passage of "Education Works," legislation to ensure Texas teens get accurate information about sexual health.

A report released last week by the Texas Freedom Network found that 94 percent of Texas schools teach abstinence-only sexual education, and in many cases are giving students inaccurate and misleading information. In January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that for the first time in 14 years, the teen birth rates are increasing nationally, and Texas’s teen birth rate rose to 63 from 61 teen births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19. Texas now has the 3rd highest teen birth rate in the nation. In contrast, the national teen birth rate is 41 births per 1,000.

"The status quo is not working," said Ellis. "The 'Education Works' plan ensures that teens have access to complete, medically-accurate and age-appropriate education about sexual health. Only through honest information will teens have the tools they need for responsible decision-making and disease prevention."

"One of the goals of the Education Works bill is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies among teens across Texas," stated Representative Castro. "HB 741 stresses abstinence while providing a comprehensive and medically-accurate curriculum about sexual health and relationships that will teach students how to make healthy life choices."

The Education Works bill will help protect teens from a pregnancy by ensuring that when they receive sex education they get complete, medically-accurate and age-appropriate information. Under current law, the Texas Education Code does not require public schools to teach sexual education. If they do choose to teach it must be abstinence-focused, and instruction about contraceptives should be implied in terms of how often they fail. The Education Works Act would require schools that teach sex education to provide medically accurate, age-appropriate information that stresses the importance of abstinence as the only 100% effective method of avoiding sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy, while also teaching about contraceptive methods to avoid STIs and pregnancy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows that for the first time in 14 years, the national teen birth rate is increasing, and the same is true in Texas. In 2006, the Texas teen birth rate rose to 63 from 61 births per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19, compared to the national average of 41 births. For nearly two decades the Texas teen birth rates have been higher than the national average. Until recently Texas had the highest teen birth rate in the nation, but in 2006, teen birth rates increased across the nation. Teen birth rates in New Mexico (#2) and Mississippi (#1) are now higher than Texas. Unfortunately, Texas still has the highest rate of repeat births to teens.