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Educator Laud Plan To Boost Funds For Drug Programs

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When the Clinton Administration acquiesced last year to cuts in drug-education and -treatment programs, some education lobbyists predicted the programs' demise.

But when President Clinton submitted his budget to Congress last week, it included $660 million for a revamped "safe and drug-free schools and communities'' program, a 40 percent jump from this year's budget of $471 million.

In addition, the budget would fund drug-treatment projects at $2.9 billion, compared with $2.5 billion in fiscal 1994, a 14 percent increase.

Most education lobbyists did not complain loudly about last year's cuts, because they viewed the drug-education program as ineffective, highly politicized, and a lower priority than other education programs. (See Education Week, Aug. 4, 1993.)

But the education community has praised this year's budget, which comes coupled with proposals to alter the focus of the anti-drug program, as a serious commitment to drug education.

"This is excellent,'' said Bruce Hunter, an associate executive director of the American Association of School Administrators. "They are making up for the lost ground and going beyond it.''

"Our children need a constant drumbeat reminder that drugs are not safe, drugs are illegal, and there will be consequences for using them,'' Mr. Clinton said last week in a speech outlining his drug strategy.

During his remarks, the President cited a recent National Institute on Drug Abuse study that found that illegal drug use among junior high and high school students increased last year for the first time in several years. (See Education Week, Feb. 9, 1994.)

Unlike his predecessors', President Clinton's overall drug strategy emphasizes drug treatment and prevention, boosts community policing, and scales down drug interdiction efforts.

At the same time, the Administration's proposal to revamp the drug-education program represents a policy shift in that it pairs drug-education with violence-prevention efforts for the first time.

The revamped program would fund a broader range of activities, including before- and after-school "safe haven'' programs, anti-crime coalitions, and technical assistance to fight juvenile crime and drug use.

Drugs and Violence

The proposal is included in legislation to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. The Senate has yet to act, but a House panel last week approved a version of the bill that includes the expanded drug-education program. (See story, page 17.)

The full Senate and a House committee have also approved a separate safe-schools program that the Administration intends to use as a way to begin funding school-safety efforts in the next school year, as the E.S.E.A. bill is not expected to win final approval in time for that.

The Administraton's fiscal 1995 budget request includes $100 million for the safe-schools program.

Substance abuse and violent behavior share many of the same causes and often respond to the same solutions, said William Modzeleski, the director of drug planning and outreach for the Education Department.

"People like [the proposal] because all the research shows that violence, drugs, and alcohol prevention go together,'' he said.

In another notable departure, neither President Clinton's budget nor the Administration's reauthorization proposal would set aside money under the drug-education program for Drug Abuse Resistance Education or other such curriculum-based programs.

Since the drug-free-schools program was first authorized in 1986, state agencies have been required to spend at least 10 percent of their allocations--$9 million in fiscal 1994--on DARE or programs like it.

"There is now no prohibition to fund DARE, but there is also no requirement,'' said Mr. Modzeleski.

He said the decision was intended to encourage schools to engage in less curriculum-based programs and to give governors "more flexibility.''

Many in the education community have welcomed this move, questioning DARE's efficacy.

"It was something the Republicans used so they could look like they were fighting drugs,'' Mr. Hunter charged.

DARE officials declined to comment.

Education Department officials also contend that the new program would increase accountability by placing a greater emphasis on collecting outcome data and calling for a national evaluation of the impact of federal drug-education programs.

Still, some observers fear that their proposals may only be a trendy response to the current tide of concern over violence and drugs.

"Schools see this as the crisis du jour,'' Mr. Hunter said. "One year you see a budget cut, the next an increase. So, people are just taking the attitude, 'Let's wait and see.'''

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