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IRVINE : School Board Balks at Drug Program Costs

The Irvine Unified School District board has backed away from a city request to pay half the cost of an additional DARE officer for middle school grades.

The city currently funds two DARE officers who conduct a 17-week course for sixth-graders and give presentations to lower grades. But Irvine police say recent studies show substance abuse education is critical for middle school students before they enter high school.

The school district’s elementary school DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program is paid for with city drug forfeiture funds. But a new middle school DARE program would require the Irvine Unified School District to pay $44,000--half of the annual cost for a third DARE officer.

On June 28, the Irvine City Council approved funding for the other half of the cost to the school district.

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School board members say they support the program, but they are also balking at the added expenditure.

“The general feeling is that we probably need to try and do something here, but it’s a little hard to justify a general fund expenditure,” said school board President Michael B. Regele, pointing out that this will be the third school year without a pay increase for teachers and school district staff.

City Manager Paul O. Brady Jr., in a letter sent to the school district, said funding of an additional DARE officer would establish “a concrete example of both government agencies coming together in mutual support for drug education, gang prevention and campus safety.”

School district staffers will seek grant funding for the program, but the issue will return to the school board if funds are not found.

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