Saturday, July 13, 2024

Audit finds ‘mixed results’ on DARE program effectiveness

by BIZ Magazine

(The Center Square) — Auditors found Louisiana’s latest Drug Abuse Resistance Education curriculum produced mixed results on effectiveness.

The Louisiana Legislative Auditor report detailed how the program is funded by a combination of state and local money. The Louisiana Commission on Law Enforcement awards DARE grants from its portion of the Tobacco Tax Health Care Fund to local law enforcement agencies for their programs.

Auditors also acknowledged the program has often revised its curriculums since its inception in the 1980s, the newest being called “Keepin’ it REAL” which focuses on decision-making strategies to help young people stay away from drugs.

Recent studies cited by the auditor’s office found this curriculum might not be helpful to reducing substance abuse among elementary school students and might only be appropriate for a narrow portion of DARE’s audience.

The auditors did conduct their own study in 2021-2022, and found that fifth and sixth grade students were making statistically significant improvements in their knowledge of the material found in the DARE curriculum.

However, their recommendations to DARE were mostly about keeping up to date. This includes modernizing assessment technology and developing higher quality goals and measurable objectives. The same audit done in 2022-2023 found they had not updated these processes.

Despite the struggles with modernization, DARE grants awarded to law enforcement to conduct these programs totaled a little over $8.5 million from 2019-2023.

The highest yearly amount was back in 2019, with almost $2.1 million. The program has not granted over $1.7 million since.

By the time that money is allocated statewide, only one sheriff’s office (the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office) received more than $100,000 in fiscal year 2023.

From 2019-2023, 91% of Louisiana school districts received DARE education. Most of those programs aimed at fifth and sixth graders with an average of 503 schools receiving DARE education annually.

The number of DARE officers has dropped from 240 to 175 in that timespan and the number of participating law enforcement agencies dropped from 71 to 57.

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