DARE to prioritize public spending
I was sad to read that the Honolulu Police Department is drastically cutting back its popular 25-year-old DARE program — Drug Abuse Resistance Education.
One of my grandsons recently had a visit at his elementary school from DARE officers, and the anti-drug message clearly made a strong impression on him.
But listening to Chief Louis Kealoha explain the move, it made obvious good sense in this challenging fiscal environment to trim DARE back from the 120 schools it currently covers to about 40 schools that have the highest concentrations of at-risk students.
When budgets are tight, the chief said, core responsibilities have to be the priority — in the case of police, law enforcement and public safety. DARE doesn’t fall under the core; cutting funding there helps the department to maintain patrols in O‘ahu neighborhoods.
It’s exactly the right way to manage a shrinking budget, and it doesn’t happen often enough in public agencies, where there’s a constituency ready to fight for every nickel in state and county budgets.
Administrators can work diligently to cut at the edges while preserving the core, only to be thwarted by advocates for the programs being cut who are able to use political pressure to fend off change.
This has been especially prevalent in the Department of Education, where administrators attempting to make necessary cuts and consolidations have had to gird for drawn-out battles before the Board of Education that they’ve often ended up losing.
Everybody wants the DOE to set priorities, be more efficient and eliminate duplication — until it’s their school or program being cut.
With the new appointed BOE coming in this month, hopefully the decision-making process will be streamlined, less drama-ridden and sharply focused on serving the core responsibilities first.