Stricter Standards Urged For Drug-Education Aid
Secretary of Education William J. Bennett last week proposed new accountability requirements for states and school districts receiving federal aid for drug-education programs.
Meanwhile, the Education Department announced it had begun to distribute the $200 million authorized last fall under the new Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act for drug-abuse-prevention programs. Aid has been approved for 9 of the 18 states that have applied so far, the department said in a statement.
Speaking at a conference in Atlanta sponsored by the Parents' Resources Institute for Drug Education, Mr. Bennett said that "the new law does not do all it could do to ensure'' the money will be spent effectively.
"We propose to improve the legislation by requiring school districts receiving federal funds to address their drug problems systematically and effectively,'' he said.
According to the department, the proposed amendments would require districts applying for funds to:
- Include a "detailed description of the current alcohol and drug problems'' in their schools;
- Explain the applicant's "drug and alcohol policy, including the disciplinary practices and procedures it will employ'';
- Describe how the applicant "will monitor the effectiveness of its program'';
- Demonstrate "reasonable progress toward achieving'' drug-free schools, or assurance that such progress will be made, before a third year of funding will be approved.
In addition, the states, which administer grants to school districts as well as their own projects, would have to report annually to the Secretary of Education on such efforts, "including data on the number and characteristics of program participants and recipients, and an assessment of the degree of success those programs are having.''
Earlier this year, the Reagan Administration's proposal to cut the program's allocation to $100 million in fiscal 1988 came under sharp criticism on Capitol Hill from both Republicans and Democrats.
John Walters, a special assistant to Secretary Bennett, said last week that "money shouldn't be the issue here. The issue should be on what works and on accountability. We should be focusing on the need to reduce student drug use.''
The added reporting requirements favored by the department should not significantly add to the program's bureaucracy, because states already have machinery in place to administer grants to school districts, he said.
Under current law, nearly $160- million in aid for anti-drug education is available to the states, with about $48 million reserved for programs sponsored by governors. The remainder is to be administered by state school chiefs for efforts at the state and local levels.
The nine states that started receiving their aid allocations last week, ranging from $795,000 to $6.1 million, are Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming.