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District Cannot Afford, Fiscally or Socially, to Cutback Family Living

February 25, 2010

It’s unfortunate that one of the programs perennially on the chopping block during budget season is also one that is vital to not only a large sector of the student population in Portland Schools, but to the future fiscal stability of our state as well.
Of course, I’m talking about none other than the constantly controversial Family Living and Human Sexuality program (or “sex education,” for short). As a senior in Portland Schools, and having spent ten of twelve years in the district, I can assuredly say that any cuts to sex education will have a profound effect on the district’s most vulnerable students, and will only lead to future budgetary woes due to an increased need for social services.
The student population of the school district is incredibly diverse: not only in terms of race, national origin, and first languages, but in socioeconomic conditions as well. This remarkable diversity leads to an unmatched vibrancy and culturally-enriched environment in the schools, but also presents a unique set of problems. For many students, the environment at home is one where discussing sexual health-related issues is impermissible or discouraged. For many students, there is no caring adult at home, or no home altogether.
One of the goals oft-repeated by the district is effectively “leveling the playing field” for all students, regardless of language or socioeconomic barriers; such a goal is noble. However, cutting back the sex education program would send a counterproductive and hypocritical message to our district’s disadvantaged students: you can have NetBooks, but not quality sex education.
Furthermore, it is only fiscally responsible- yes, responsible- that the district preserve sex education and, if anything, bolster it. If resources are cut, the result will inevitably be an increase in teen pregnancies, disease, and financial hardship on our city’s poorest of families. In other words- and you fiscal conservatives out there will love this- an increase in social services. But if we strengthen education and increase awareness, we can promote health, well-being, and fiscal responsibility- all at the same time.

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