Drug Czar Aims to Revamp School Aid Program!

Drug Czar Aims to Revamp School Aid Program!
Posted by FoM on July 13, 1999 at 07:28:36 PT
By Blair Golson, Times Staff Writer
Source: LA Times
WASHINGTON--Drug czar Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey will outline proposed legislation today to overhaul the way federal, state and local governments combat drug abuse in schools, targeting federal anti-drug money at campuses that need it most.
Acknowledging that the government's largest program to battle drug use and school violence is rife with "shortfalls," McCaffrey, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, will propose a new "competitive" funding policy, in which local school districts would develop benchmarks that state officials could use to determine which districts deserve federal aid.   The legislation would redistribute the program's $591-million allocation for the next fiscal year, supporting anti-drug programs in school districts that demonstrate the greatest need while denying money to districts whose needs are less acute or whose programs are less effective.   "We've got tons of schools that are receiving low amounts of funds. We are not helping anyone by trying to help everyone," said Rob Housman, deputy strategy director of the National Drug Control Policy. "In redividing the pie, we are going to target need and quality [of anti-drug programs]."   The proposed legislation, a joint effort of McCaffrey and Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, will most likely piggyback on the mammoth education bill. Through a spokesman, McCaffrey called the changes a "preemptive strike" to fix the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Program.   Critics have assailed it as ineffective, poorly monitored and barely relevant to youth violence or drug abuse.   In 1998, the program distributed $556 million to state governments, who doled it out to school districts that requested assistance. McCaffrey and Riley have acknowledged that the process often showed little regard for need and placed few requirements on schools to link program funding with results.   A Times investigation last fall found that, under the program, taxpayer dollars went for such expenses as puppet shows, tickets to Disneyland and resort weekends.   In a statement of his testimony to be presented before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, McCaffrey said some districts are squandering money on drug programs that don't work.   Under his proposal, state education departments would be required to allocate funds only to those schools that best met certain criteria, including high rates of alcohol, tobacco, or drug use among youth, and high rates of drug-related delinquency. School districts also would have to establish their own benchmarks by which their progress could be monitored. "You will be able to lay [the schools] down side by side and say, 'Do these things have the markers of success?' " Housman said.   The legislation would also make state officials publicly accountable to the federal government, requiring them to report annually on their state's progress as measured against its own benchmarks.   But even if this legislation proved to be the silver bullet in combating drug use in schools, state governments would only be allowed to fully fund 50% of the schools in their districts. "To run an effective program, choices must be made," McCaffrey said. Pubdate: Tuesday, July 13, 1999 Copyright Los Angeles Times 
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