State Journal: Drug czar fracas; Broken promise?

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After a sharp political struggle, the Michigan state board of education has backed Gov. John Engler's request to give the state drug czar partial control of $14 million in federal drug education money previously distributed through the state education department.

The proposal passed after months of debate and on a 5-to-3 party-line vote in which all of the panel's G.O.P. members sided with the Republican Governor.

Until now, the money has been used for the Michigan Model, a health-education program that covers many subjects.

That was a problem for Mr. Engler and his drug-policy director, Robert Peterson, who complained that the funds were going too much to show students how to brush their teeth and not enough to tell them not to use drugs.

But defenders of the program countered that the proposed transfer was really an attack on the Michigan Model, which has been criticized by conservative Christian groups for undermining the family.

Irritated with Mr. Peterson, the board last month initially rejected the transfer proposal.

Emphasizing that they were not trying to destroy the Michigan Model, however, members this month agreed to a plan giving control over the money to an ad hoc panel chaired by Mr. Peterson.

Even so, the board remains wary, according to Bob Harris, a department spokesman."There's a firm distrust by members of [Mr. Peterson]," he said."They're concerned he'll do everything in his power to prevent the money from going to the Michigan Model."

Gov. Terry E. Branstad has stirred up a partisan tempest in Iowa by acknowledging that he will probably not be able to accomplish his campaign pledge of raising state teacher salaries to the national average within four years.

Mr. Branstad last year received the backing of the powerful Iowa State Education Association at least in part because of his promise, despite claims by his Democratic opponent that the state could not afford such increases.

Mr. Branstad recently admitted that a weak fiscal outlook would prevent the state from achieving the target on schedule, while affirming,"I still think that's an admirable goal."

In response, the chairman of the state Democratic Party blasted the Governor for "deceit and deception" and "an insult to all Iowans."

But I.S.E.A. leaders are sticking by Mr. Branstad.

"He hasn't said he won't work to reach the national average," said Bill Sherman, a union spokesman. "We understand there are financial pressures."--H.D.

Vol. 11, Issue 13, Page 17

Published in Print: November 27, 1991, as State Journal: Drug czar fracas; Broken promise?
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