A House committee chairman, citing studies showing a high correlation between drug use and school dropouts, Friday lambasted the Reagan Administration for not spending enough money to combat school drug problems.
Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N. Y.) said that a significant percentage of the 750,000 students who drop out of school annually also use drugs and that Administration officials who argue that the problem is decreasing are “looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.”
The congressman made his comments at a hearing of the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control at which several government officials testified, including Assistant Education Secretary Lawrence F. Davenport, who defended the Education Department’s efforts.
Rangel repeatedly questioned the adequacy of the department’s $3-million budget to fight students’ drug abuse, asserting that some states have no school programs at all.
But Davenport countered that money to fight drugs in schools is available from other federal sources, such as the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services. Moreover, he said, local districts raise $5 million a year to bolster the effort.
The Education Department funds five regional centers nationwide and distributes information to fight drug and alcohol abuse. About 600 local schools and state agencies participate in education programs that use “teams” to help teachers identify and prevent such abuse.
But because the program is voluntary, Rangel cast doubt on its effectiveness. In criticizing the federal effort, he was joined by former Kentucky Gov. Julian Carroll, who asserted that voluntary programs will not work because many education officials refuse to admit “that they have the problem in the first place.”
Carroll, in an impassioned speech that drew applause from spectators, told Davenport that “denial is the greatest problem” and called on the Administration to declare a “state of emergency” and to convene the nation’s governors to fashion a response to students’ alcohol and drug abuse.
Pearl Mack, a member of the executive committee of the National Assn. of Education, cited a 1981 study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that showed that 80% of the dropouts in two Philadelphia high schools had used drugs.
“Drug abuse and dropout rates, in fact, are closely interrelated,” Mack said.