Ten years ago, "16 and Pregnant" aired on MTV. For five seasons, viewers followed young women as their experiences of being pregnant and a teenager were sensationalized. MTV provided the snappy editing expected of a reality show, but the situations the girls faced were real and are present in our own community.
Since 1981, the SouthWest Metro Intermediate District’s New Beginnings program has provided support and education to pregnant and parenting teens in the southwest area of the Twin Cities; similar parenting programs exist throughout Minnesota. While the programs have been successful since day one (the New Beginnings graduation rate matches that of Minnesota – 80%), getting students physically to the program has not been as successful.
Taking a traditional yellow school bus from home to New Beginnings in Chaska is not an option for all students in SouthWest Metro’s member districts. Many students cannot afford a vehicle, or even if they can, driving in winter with an infant and brand-new driver’s license is not safe. With that, the most dedicated students put their education on hold. Recognizing these barriers, local officials stepped in to craft a solution.
For five years, SouthWest Metro staff have advocated for these students to be able to ride buses on existing routes to the campus. The initiative costs nearly nothing and has had repeated support from the capitol, yet the legislation was continuously passed over.
Following the 91st Legislature, however, the bill was passed allowing districts in Minnesota to transport pregnant and parenting teens from their resident district to programs where students have access to education, on-site child care, and parenting classes.
With Rep. Brad Tabke (District 55A) authoring the initiative in the House (HF 681) and including it in the education omnibus bill, and Sen. Richard Draheim (District 20) authoring in the Senate (SF 340), the legislation mustered bipartisan support in Scott and Carver counties and beyond. Rep. Tony Albright and Sen. Eric Pratt also signed on in support.
Through a community effort that put students and young children first, students like those at New Beginnings are able to attend school, care for their children, and succeed without having to accommodate the most basic part: being there.
Thank you to Tabke and Draheim for your leadership in passing this critically important legislation on a bipartisan level. Special thanks to Tabke for continually resuscitating this bill so it could ultimately survive the conference committee.