Pregnant or parenting teens face innumerable challenges — HF4214 aims to alleviate one of them.
Sponsored by Rep. Roz Peterson (R-Lakeville), the bill would expand special education transportation funding to cover transportation costs of certain pregnant or parenting teens.
The House Education Finance Committee held an informational hearing on HF4214 Thursday. The companion, SF3433, awaits action by the Senate E-12 Finance Committee. Sen. Rich Draheim (R-Madison Lake) is the sponsor.
Minnesota’s school districts are required to provide transportation to any student who lives more than two miles away from the school, with alternative transportation available to homeless students or students with disabilities that need special accommodations. Districts then receive 100 percent reimbursement for these special transportation accommodations through the special education funding formula.
Darren Kermes, superintendent of SouthWest Metro Intermediate School District 282, said the current system is inefficient because even though they have plenty of capacity in their special transportation vehicles the district risks losing a percentage of reimbursement funding if they take pregnant or parenting teens to a specialized educational program.
“Our desire here is not to provide a car, it’s not to provide this expensive program, it is simply to allow a district to make a common-sense decision and put kids on a bus with empty seats so you’re not losing money on it,” he said.
New Beginnings Pregnant and Parenting Teen Program is one of five programs in the state that provide academic instruction, parenting instruction and high-quality onsite child care during the school day to pregnant and parenting teens. It is a three-pronged approach that Kermes said is essential to the success of high school mothers and their children.
This bill would allow school districts to provide transportation to students attending a program such as New Beginnings in the same manner they provide transportation for students attending a treatment or special education program.
Kermes noted that while nearly 20 percent of teen moms nationally experience developmental delays with their children, only 7 percent of the children of teen mothers who have had access to New Beginnings programming during their pregnancy experienced similar developmental delays.
“The program succeeds because it combines quality academic instruction with parenting education and quality on-site child care,” he said. “Unfortunately this program is not fully realizing its mission due to the inability of many pregnant and parenting teens to be able to get to the program.”
The bill’s language is permissive so school districts won’t be required to offer the transportation to pregnant or parenting teens. Instead it’s meant to prevent them from being penalized if they do.
“This bill retains local control and leaves the ultimate decision in terms of transportation to the local school district by stating that a school district may provide this form of transportation,” Kermes said.
Briana Serrano Sanchez from Shakopee has attended the New Beginnings program since 2015 and will be graduating this spring. She said that it has been essential to her success and the success of her 2-year-old daughter.
“I’m grateful that there was transportation to bring my daughter and me to school every day,” Serrano Sanchez said. “While I’m taking my academic classes and learning about child development, I know my daughter is being cared for in a safe, nurturing childcare center which is onsite at our school.”
She knows other teenage mothers who are unable to get transportation to New Beginnings and they’re suffering because of it.
“The mom’s feel isolated and they stress about having to find a ride to school every day and thinking about all the things that they’ll miss in class and whether they will graduate or not,” she said. “They don’t learn parenting skills and their children miss out on a chance to be in a developmentally appropriate setting where they will have a much better chance for a good start in school and in life.”
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