ONLY A FEW months ago, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed that one out of four American girls age 14 through 19 has one or more sexually transmitted diseases.

To add insult to that injury, teen pregnancies are increasing, and Philadelphia has one of the highest rates in the nation.

Which make the $1.5 billion that President Bush spent on his failed abstinence-only program a waste of money. Especially with the news that only half the city's public schools are funded to pass out free condoms and that only $1.5 million is needed to expand distribution to all schools.

We know that many parents of teenagers worry that urging their kids to use condoms encourages sexual promiscuity. But the risks of sex without condoms are huge.

Still, there's an opportunity in this situation: Given that half the schools have free conodom distribution and half don't, it strikes us that the city has a perfect controlled experiment to see just how effective condoms can be. The district and health officials should collect data on how students at each of these schools have fared. The facts could provide the strongest argument for more funding. *