The Pilot Editorial

Monday, December 2, 2002

DARE to fund it

You will see a lot of D.A.R.E. in this newspaper, and you should - the local effort against youth abuse of drugs and alcohol is among the most active in the nation, thanks to our cooperative schools and the involvement of our local police department.

D.A.R.E. - Drug and Alcohol Resistance Education - takes a lot of abuse these days. It proved to be an easy target for the state to cut funding - saving all of $6 per student, which paid for a T-shirt and a textbook.

Then, every so-called expert decided that since drug abuse and alcoholism still exist, D.A.R.E. must not work. They are some of the same fatalists calling for legalizing narcotics and giving their kids booze at home because they figure it's going to happen out on the street anyway.

Respond with this: Do we really want to find out if it could be even worse without D.A.R.E.? No, it can't prevent every problem for every kid - we see enough teen drug and alcohol arrests in our headlines to know that is true. But it can ensure that every child is informed of the facts and the risks that they face, and that they know there are alternatives. That, we think, has value.

Yeah, it costs society six bucks for a book and a T-shirt. And if we don't reach them, it costs $100 a day for every teenager we send to the Youth Detention Center for a crime that drugs and drinking often contributes to. Maybe D.A.R.E. is an investment, then, instead of a cost. Remember the old Fram oil filter commercials? "You can pay me now, or pay me later..."

When life busts a head gasket, however, we end up paying for someone for years and years on welfare, in drug treatment, in jail, even perhaps their burial plot. How many spouse abuse cases spring from perpetual dependence on drugs and drink? How many innocent people are busted up by drunk or drugged drivers?

The state used to run D.A.R.E. around here, until it dropped the ball. Storm Lake Police picked it up, and D.A.R.E. officer Pete Erickson has kept it going since, with amazing commitment and energy.

The police are the ones who often have to deal with the aftermath of youth drinking and drugging. What should it tell us that they are willing to give their own time and effort and resources in the hopes of preventing it from happening, one child at a time?

It tells us that we would rather have that program there for our own children than have to do without it. And we think cutting D.A.R.E. funding last year was about the worst $6 the State of Iowa ever saved.

The state is apparently willing to take its chances with your children. We are thankful that the local police are not. That the local businesses who come forward to help pay for it are not. That the local balloon pilots who offer D.A.R.E. incentive rides here each year are not. That the high school students who visit the younger kids as part of D.A.R.E. to help give them positive role models (you read about them here earlier this week) are not.

Yes, parents will always be the front lines against drug and alcohol abuse. But few of them will mind a little backup.

Yes, it is ultimately a young person's own responsibility to make smart choices about their own lifestyle. But it doesn't hurt to know they have all the facts going into that decision.

Storm Lake D.A.R.E. will probably survive without any help from the state. We're not so sure that is likely for the rest of the communities in Iowa, though, and that is too bad.

As taxpayers, we don't want to know what that little T-shirt we take off a kid's back, and that little workbook we take out of their hands, could stand to cost us in the future.

Storm Lake isn't willing to take the chance.

As a result, you'll see and read lots of positive things going on here within the D.A.R.E. program. Everybody sees the the few troubled kids in the news doing wrong - it's good to see some of the great many kids who are doing something just right.

We aren't so sure we should dare to do without D.A.R.E. Are you?