D.A.R.E has replaced its lions with ones half their size to save money.

The Laurel County D.A.R.E. program is standing on shaky ground this year after promised funding has yet to come through.

The D.A.R.E. advisory board hasn’t seen any of the $10,000 the Laurel County Fiscal Court set aside in its budget for the school-based program, which teaches kids about saying no to drugs, bullying, peer pressure and decision making.

“The reason we’re being given is (the money) just is not there,” board member Eddie Jones said. “In December we were told we’d have the money in January, in January we were told February, in February we were told March.”

The D.A.R.E. — Drug Abuse Resistance Education — program has been in all area elementary schools since the late 1980s. The 10- to 16-week program is taught to fifth graders by five officers from the London City Police Department, the Laurel County Sheriff’s Office and the Kentucky State Police.

“I think it’s a very well put together program,” Jones said. “We hear all good comments from parents. It seems to be effective for that age of student. It’s also a good opportunity for children to have a positive encounter with a police officer.”

London Police Sgt. Derek House has been teaching D.A.R.E. for the past nine years.

“It gives them an opportunity to see a police officer as a person, not just a uniform,” he said, adding he has nicknames for all his students and invites them to call him by his first name. “You build that relationship with your schools. They’re not just kids, they’re my kids.”

“The kids love their instructors,” London Police Sgt. Kenneth Jones added. “Even at the Chicken Festival, you’ll have kids hanging onto them. It’s a wonderful program. It’s good for the kids.”

For the past several years, the program, which costs about $22,000, has been largely funded by the city and county, which each provided $10,000. The remaining monies were given by private donors.

The city gave its money for the 2006-2007 fiscal year to the program in August 2006.

After the money from the county didn’t come in April, organizers started looking for ways to scale down their budget. At that point, canceling the program wasn’t an option — the students had been getting D.A.R.E. instruction since January.

“We were committed obviously to graduating those kids,” said London Police Detective Sgt. Russell Baker, who acts as D.A.R.E. treasurer.

The May graduations amount to a large part of the expense. Each of the 700 fifth graders who go through the program yearly receive a D.A.R.E. stuffed lion, a T-shirt and a certificate, amounting to a cost of about $12,000.

The first thing to go were the large D.A.R.E. lions, which were replaced by ones half their size.

To help offset costs of the supplies, the United Way has offered to step in with a contribution of $3,000.

The second thing to be cut was the salaries of the instructors, which amounts to about $9,000 per year. The program is still short $3,000.

“They’re doing it for free right now,” Baker said. “They’re holding their time sheets.”

Baker said he spoke to Laurel County Judge-Executive Lawrence Kuhl Thursday about the salary costs.

“He said he would try to get enough money together,” Baker said. “He said he would try to come up with that.”

But right now, the future of the D.A.R.E. program remains uncertain.

Baker said he submitted a request for the city and county to each set aside $15,000 in their budgets for the next fiscal year. He said the advisory board is also looking at getting the school district to pay for some of the costs, a request he expects will be made this summer.

Superintendent David Young said he would be supportive of the school district contributing to the program.

“I think it’s very beneficial,” he said.

In the meantime, Baker feels confident the city will contribute next year.

“The mayor is committed to D.A.R.E.,” Baker said. “In the worst case scenario we would teach D.A.R.E. in the city schools and we would, for lack of a better word, drop the county schools.”

Only two of the district’s 11 elementary schools fall within city limits — London and Sublimity elementary schools.

“I think it’s a good program,” Mayor Troy Rudder said. “It teaches the kids the officers are there to help.”

Kuhl could not be reached for comment.

Staff writer Tara Kaprowy can be reached by e-mail at tkaprowy@sentinel-echo. com.

React to this story:


This Week's Circulars