The latest news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the U.S. teen birth rate is worth applauding. The rate has plummeted to the lowest point since the 1940s.
In a report released last week, the CDC found birth rates for teens between 15 and 19 dropped by 6 percent, with the number of births to teens down to a historic low of 305,420 thats the lowest since the end of World War II, and less than half the total in 1970, when the number of teen births reached its peak at 644,708. The decline was across all racial and ethnic categories.
The birth rate for 15-19 year-olds is now at 29.4 births per 1,000 girls. In the 1950s, the teen birth rate was three times as high, peaking at 96.3 per 1,000 in 1957.
Further, the CDC report showed that the birth rate for women in their early 20s has also been steadily declining since 2007, usually by 5 percent each year, and reached a record low of 83.1 births per 1,000 women in 2012.
So, whats the catalyst? More access to contraception, experts say, as well as more education. Some also cite the recession.
Less of a factor, many say, is teens having less sex or more abortions. Both those rates for teens remain virtually unchanged over the last few years.
Unfortunately, the CDC study also found that in 2012, 40.7 percent 2 in 5 of all births were to unmarried mothers. Thats up from roughly 1 in 5 births in 1980. Unwed mothers are more likely to live in poverty. So thats problematic.
Yet, only 17 percent of the single mothers last year were teens. That bodes well for the future if declines continue in that direction.
Will higher enrollments help Wake, CMS bonds?
On Friday, Wake County school officials released their tentative enrollment figures, showing 153,152 students 3,644 students more than last school year. Thats more than school and county staff had projected, and it puts the district solidly in front of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools once again.
Officials at CMS, the states second-largest system, last week said they fully expect to meet their projections of 143,836 K-12 students, up from 141,171 a year ago. The official enrollment counts wont come until later this month when tallies are made for the 20th day of school. These early figures are based on 10th day counts.
The enrollment numbers are not all about jockeying for a No. 1 spot between the school districts though CMS officials often noted the ranking with pride when CMS held the coveted top spot for a number of years. But this year, both Wake and CMS are using the rising enrollments to bolster their cases for construction bonds on the fall ballot.
Wakes growth projections have become a target for critics of the $810 million in bonds before the voters. Bond supporters say the money is needed to keep up with projections showing that Wake could add 20,000 students by 2018. But opponents say Wake wont grow that fast, especially with so many new charter schools opening.
CMS is also facing new charter schools opening. But CMS has a good argument for voter approval of a much smaller $290 million package. Student enrollments are zooming in the south, and repairs and renovations across the district are badly needed.
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