Thirteen Wisconsin school districts are sharing a federal grant to counsel students who are pregnant or new parents with the goal of keeping them in school.
The state Department of Public Instruction issued the grants through a program it has dubbed “InSPIRE.”  Districts have received grant amounts ranging from $40,000 to $200,000.
Doug White, who oversees the program for the DPI, said that even though the teen birthrate in Wisconsin and nationwide has fallen in recent years, it's still an issue for students who find themselves in that situation. White said that the burdens of parenting often keep young people from completing school.
In Wisconsin, 46 percent of mothers who are 19 years old or younger don't graduate high school. Right now, DPI officials don't track pregnancy-related dropouts, but according to White, the grant project will change that.
“Through this project, we will be better able to define what the dropout risk is and how programs, such as these can keep kids connected to school, connected to higher education,” he said.
White said each of the 13 districts has designed its own program. Some will connect students with tutors, others will make more flexible class schedules to accommodate the new parents' doctor appointments or work schedule.
He said the idea is also to get these parents to think about their — and their babies' — futures, as well as “the importance of avoiding a subsequent pregnancy and keeping themselves healthy and safe during the early parenting period.”
The grants were issued this winter. White said schools are already implementing their programs.