D.A.R.E. Ain't What It Used To Be Around Houston

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D.A.R.E. was designed to keep a kid off drugs, but that's a tough feat without adequate funding. In the last five years, waning support from the state has forced some school districts to pull the plug on the program and forced others to downgrade considerably.  

The Houston school district and the Alief school district abandoned the D.A.R.E program altogether. Cy-Fair school district participates on a school-by-school basis, and the Fort Bend school district nixed the program for a cheaper version called Kids and Cops.  

The Pasadena school district still has a large program, but Katy school district is by far the largest.

KISD has its own D.A.R.E. unit, headed by Sergeant Tom Donalson, and a D.A.R.E. advisory board made up of parents and an officer liaison.

In the past, school districts received funding from state government for the costly program, but now the money is being used to upgrade security hardware and procedures as required by law.  

"There's only a limited amount of grant money and I think the emphasis has swayed to securing the schools, which is a necessary thing because of terrorism and the age we live in," Donalson told Hair Balls. "It's unfortunate because you need to level things out. You need to still keep the preventative programs in place because that's part of it too."

The school district provides Donalson with a D.A.R.E. budget to cover basic program needs such as booklets, t-shirts and the officers' salaries. Anything else such as teaching aides, certificates and graduations are paid for by the advisory board.

As more money was needed elsewhere, cuts were made. For many school districts that meant the D.A.R.E. program. Cops were removed from D.A.R.E. assignments to patrol the streets, and very few school districts maintained a community service unit. KISD is an exception.

"What I like about Katy I.S.D. is that we have done it uniformly across the board. Every school gets the same thing when it comes to D.A.R.E.," Donalson says. "The school district sees the benefits of the D.A.R.E. program." 

The parents see it too, which is key to keeping the program alive.

"The school districts will want to do it if the parents demand it," Donalson says.  "It's kinda like the squeaky wheel.  If they want it bad enough they're gonna find the money to do it."

-- Amina Rivera

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