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School board says yes to funding for DARE - but for the last time.

Byline: Anne Williams The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - Once again, the Springfield School District's DARE program appears to have dodged the budget ax, despite the school board's misgivings and a lack of research backing it up.

But this will really be the last time, school board members said Wednesday.

The police-led drug awareness and prevention program has been on the chopping block for three straight years as the district and the city - which traditionally has helped pay for it - have sought ways to trim in lean budget times. Every time, though, supporters have mounted a campaign to save it.

This year was no different, and in the past several weeks - in discussions between the district and the city - Superintendent Nancy Golden decided to change her initial budget recommendation, asking the board to split the cost 50-50 with the city just for this year.

The full cost - mostly DARE officer Deb Gilmer's salary - is about $120,000, although nearly $30,000 of that has been raised through private fundraising in the past year. That leaves the district and the city each with $45,000 to pay, which district finance director Brett Yancey said can be covered either with cash carryover or additional state school funds.

Most of the four board members present said they'll support the recommendation when the budget comes up for a vote on June 27, but they also said they won't renew funding in 2006-07. Garry Weber said he likes DARE, "but we might do well to say, `This is it.' '

Chairwoman Laurie Adams said even if the board believes that it's important to fund a drug prevention program, DARE isn't the right one.

At a recent Budget Committee meeting, it was Adams who asked to see the research on DARE, and on Wednesday the board heard from researcher Patti Chamberlain of the Center for Research to Practice and the Oregon Social Learning Center. She discussed various studies and "meta-analyses" that assessed the most reliable of numerous studies on DARE and drew conclusions.

The most recent of those, a 2004 cost-benefit meta-analysis by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, found no positive effects on children who participated in the DARE program.

Abundant research in the 1990s found similar results, prompting the DARE program to retool its curriculum, she noted. One ongoing study has found somewhat promising early results from the revised DARE programs, she said, which have moved away from the lecture format to incorporate more role playing and other active learning methods.

"The best we can say is the jury is still out on the effectiveness of DARE," Chamberlain said.

The board heard from a handful of parents and DARE graduates, including Madison Hertz, a Briggs Middle School sixth-grader who said the DARE program at Page Elementary School taught him a lot about the ills of drugs. The course is given to all fifth-graders. "I'd just like to say that DARE has really made a difference in my life," he said.

Thurston High School sophomore Demic Tipitino said he can't remember his fifth-grade teacher, but he remembers DARE officer Darin Vetter. Especially for students whose parents may fail to teach their children why to avoid drugs, DARE plays a critical role, he said.

"I say no to drugs all the time," he said. "It's a big problem in high school."
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Title Annotation:Schools
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 16, 2005
Words:552
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