Caitlin Hartsell
No school program epitomizes a childhood in the nineties like the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program (D.A.R.E.). I still have a few awkward memories of wearing an over-sized D.A.R.E. t-shirt, reading my "I promise never to do drugs" essay at the D.A.R.E. graduation ceremony. I don't remember the essay itself, but I do remember thinking that the concept didn't mean a whole lot to me, or to many of my classmates.

Many research studies over the past two decades have reached the same conclusion: D.A.R.E. does not work. By the end of the '90s, there had already been dozens of studies that reached the conclusion that D.A.R.E. is ineffective, at best. In fact, in some suburban areas, it appears to have the opposite effect: A six-year follow-up study showed an increase in drug use among D.A.R.E. graduates. Yet the program is still around, using up tax dollars and officer time.

Despite the plethora of research on its futility, Blue Springs, Mo., spends more than $1 million every year on its D.A.R.E. program. It is funded though a quarter-cent sales tax called "Community Backed Anti-drug Taxes" (COMBAT). From the Examiner (emphasis added):
[Jackson County Executive Mike] Sanders could not emphasize enough the importance of the tax, which funds many county services, including one-third of the county prosecutor’s budget; it also funds a portion of the drug task force and the popular and successful DARE program.

The Kansas City Star article criticizes the decision to keep the COMBAT tax and the D.A.R.E. program, pointing out that even supporters can't show proof of its success, and many national studies have shown that it is unsuccessful. Even the surgeon general said, in 2001, that the program does not work. While it is certainly a "feel good" program, it is not a good use of tax payer dollars.

Twelve years have passed since I graduated D.A.R.E., and it has been an even longer time since the program has been debunked, yet it continues to remain funded because of the idea that something needs to be done, regardless of whether it is effective. Numerous studies have shown that the program's touted "successes" can't actually be credited to D.A.R.E. I personally have never taken an illegal drug, but I don't think D.A.R.E. factored into my decision, and plenty of my classmates still chose to do drugs in middle school and high school, despite completing the program.

D.A.R.E. has consistently failed to prove that it's worth the taxpayer expense. Considering that the Blue Springs children seem likely to fit the profile of children who have been negatively impacted by D.A.R.E. in the past, residents there certainly have better uses for that money than to fund a discredited program.

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Caitlin Hartsell