WASHINGTON, May 11 (UPI) -- A U.S. Senate bill would help states and local school districts support pregnant and parenting youth who face challenges staying in school, legislators say.
Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M.; Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii and U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., said each year approximately 750,000 U.S. teens get pregnant and almost one-fifth of students across the country drop out of high school.
In a nationwide survey, 33 percent of female dropouts and almost 20 percent of male dropouts reported that becoming a parent was a major factor in their decision to leave school.
Pregnant and parenting teens face many barriers to education, including enrolling in and attending school, juggling schoolwork with parenting responsibilities, lack of access to child care or transportation and discrimination or stigma attached to being a pregnant and/or parenting teen, the senators said.
The Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act would reduce these barriers by empowering states and local districts to support teenage mothers and fathers and reduce the student dropout rate, Udall said.
"Teen pregnancy and dropout rates are too high across the country and especially in New Mexico," Udall said in a statement. "Support for pregnant and parenting students can go a long way, and that is why we want to help teenage parents stay in school, go back to school, or graduate from school with the skills to have a meaningful career and take care of their family," Udall said in a statement.
Achieving a high school diploma is critical to young peoples' ability to succeed in the workforce, yet pregnancy and parenting responsibilities significantly increase a student's risk of dropping out of school, Polis added.