Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Kids dare to challenge cut to anti-drug program

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A 2-foot stack of letters from Cincinnati students has Mayor Charlie Luken rethinking cuts to an anti-drug program.

        He said Tuesday he had no idea schools had been cut out of the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program as a result of City Council's decision last year to hack $250,000 out of the program's $750,000 budget.

        “I also must comment about the way (the Safety Department) and the administration handled the decision to reduce DARE,” he said.

        “Very little discussion was conducted with the affected schools, and no reaction was communicated to City Council.”

        But the mayor said he did hear from members of the Archdiocese of Cin
cinnati, because most of the schools eliminated from DARE were private Roman Catholic schools.

        “The police chief told me they cut schools they thought were getting the least benefit,” Mr. Luken said, adding City Council should have been informed. “It's really a resource issue.”

        Now, he has asked department officials to prepare a plan that could reinstate DARE to some of those schools without increasing the amount of money going to the program.

        “I don't want to mislead anyone,” Mr. Luken said. “I was one of the ones who approved the cutback.”

        Several city officials, including City Manager John Shirey, have described DARE as ineffective. In De cember budget hearings DARE was one of several programs cut, resulting in a $2 million budget reduction.

        Since the cutback, Mr. Luken said, the city has been the focus of a letter-writing campaign by students, dozens of those letters ending with the question, “Are you picking on me because I am Catholic?”


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