Gov. Pat Quinn is reportedly on the fence about applying for federal abstinence-only sex education program funds. The Quinn administration has decided, however, to apply for Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) funds, which would go towards sex education programs that tout the merits of abstinence and contraception equally. The PREP program was created in response to a government-mandated study of abstinence-only sex education programs that found a number of them to be ineffective at preventing sexual activity amongst youth. Abstinence-only programs were set to be phased out completely by the Obama administration, but they were brought back into the fold (at a reduced level) during the health care reform negotiations. Now, states will have the choice to apply for $50 million in abstinence-only program funds each year for the next five years if they match $3 for every $4 they receive from the federal government. PREP money, meanwhile, comes with no strings attached.
The deadline to apply for the abstinence-only funding is August 31. For a cash-strapped state like Illinois, it makes little sense to apply for funds to support discredited programs that will cost us more money in the long-run -- especially when there is a free (and potentially more effective) alternative available. Hopefully, the governor will make the right decision.