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Senate Approves Weakened Version of Anti-Drug Bill

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Washington--The Senate late last week approved an omnibus drug bill that would weaken the measure it passed last month requiring schools to have tough anti-drug policies to receive federal funds.

The final bill includes an amendment that would require the Secretary of Education to waive sanctions for up to one year for state education agencies in the process of implementing a statewide anti-drug plan.

This would have the practical effect, observers said, of also waiving the sanctions--including the cutoff of federal funds--for schools in those states that have not implemented such a policy.

President's Plan Modified

The modification was one of more than 30 amendments to President Bush's legislative proposal for implementing his national drug strategy that was consid4ered by the Senate.

In September, the Senate agreed to amend the Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1986 to require all schools, as a prerequisite to receiving federal funds, to certify to state education officials that they have implemented a program to prevent the use of drugs and alcohol by students and employees on school grounds or at school-sponsored activities.

That measure was included as part of a $9.4-billion bipartisan budget agreement to finance the nation8al drug strategy unveiled by the President Sept. 5. (See Education Week, Oct. 4, 1989.)

The amendment passed last week, however, would weaken the earlier measure. It would allow schools to continue receiving federal funds if they certify to state authorities that they have "a plan with a timetable to implement" an anti-drug program.

The plan would have to include alternative support, education, and re-entry programs for students expelled because they violated the school's drug policy.

Schools that do not already provide anti-drug education for students in grades 4-9 would be required, under the amendment, to use any new federal anti-drug monies they receive for this population.

More Aid for Cities

State education agencies would also be required to give more federal drug money to the districts serving the largest city in the state.

An aide to Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who sponsored the amendment, said the measure adopted last month would be "incredibly onerous" for educators. The Kennedy amendment would give educators at both the district and state level more time to implement anti-drug policies, the aide said.

Other Amendments

Other amendments to the drug bill would:

  • Direct the National Drug Control Policy office to develop a coordinated policy with state and local governments to curb youth-gang involvement in the drug trade. The plan would have to be implemented by February 1991.
  • Allow states to include the cost of drug-treatment programs in their Medicaid program.
  • Allow states to use federal funds from the Drug-Free Schools program for initiatives aimed at latchkey children. A recent study found that latchkey children were morelikely to use drugs than children who have adult supervision before or after school. (See Education Week, Sept. 13, 1989.)
  • Permit local governments to use federal drug-education money for model alternative schools for youths with drug problems. This proposal was included in the President's drug plan, and the Education Department has said it may use existing monies to pay for between 5 and 20 model programs. (See Education Week, Sept. 13, 1989.)
  • Encourage states to develop so-called "boot camp" programs for first-time drug offenders.
  • Authorize $10 million for a grant program for schools wanting to establish a Project Drug Abuse Resistance Education program for students in grades K-6. Project dare, which began in Los Angeles, uses law-enforcement officials to explain the dangers of drug use to schoolchildren.

The omnibus measure does not appropriate any new funds for these programs. The House has not yet begun to consider its own drug bill.

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