White House Requests Increased Funding for Failed Student Drug-Testing, Discredited Anti-Pot Ads
by Paul Armentano
by Paul Armentano
In a move that should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, the Bush administration's FY 08 budget requests significant increases in federal funding to randomly drug-test student athletes and pay for discredited public service announcements urging teens to avoid marijuana.
According to Bush's budget request, the White House is demanding $130 million in 2008 to fund the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, an increase of 31 percent over current funding levels. Both government and independent reviews of the campaign, which has spent over $2 billion in federal monies and matching funds since its inception in 1998, have consistently found that teens most exposed to the advertisements are more likely to try pot than their peers.
A May 2002 review by the research firm Westat Inc. and the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania that found "no statistically significant decline in marijuana use or improvement in beliefs and attitudes about marijuana use" attributable to the media campaign. Authors also acknowledged that there was "no tendency for those reporting more exposure to Campaign messages to hold more desirable beliefs" about the dangers of illicit drugs.
A February 2003 performance assessment by the White House Office of Management and Budget criticizing the Media Campaign for failing to achieve any tangible goals or objectives. There exists "no evidence that paid media messages have a direct effect on youth drug-related behavior," the report concluded. As a result, its authors recommended Congress restrict funding for the campaign pending further evaluation.
An August 2006 US Government Accountability Office (GAO) evaluation concluding that the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign was ineffective in reducing youth drug use. "[E]xposure to the advertisements generally did not lead youth to disapprove of using drugs and may have promoted perceptions among exposed youth that others' drug use was normal," the GAO reported. "[E]xposure to the campaign did not prevent initiation of marijuana use and had no effect on curtailing current users' marijuana use."
A January 2007 Texas State University study published in the journal Addictive Behaviors that reported that teens are more likely to express their intent to use marijuana after viewing the Feds' anti-pot ads. Investigators concluded, "It appears that ... anti-marijuana public statement announcements used in national anti-drug campaigns in the US produce immediate effects [that are the] opposite [of those] intended by the creators of the campaign."
In addition to requesting even more taxpayers' dollars to fund the administration's failed ad campaign, White House officials have also asked for an extra $17.9 million dollars to pay for the implementation of random drug-testing programs for students who participate in competitive extra-curricular activities.
Since 2005, the Education Department has appropriated more than $20 million to various school districts to pay for random drug-testing programs. Federal policy stipulates that these monies may not be used to fund separate drug education and/or prevention curricula, nor may they be used to train school staff officials on how to implement drug-testing. Moreover, only federal investigators are eligible to review data collected by the school programs, which is to be evaluated as part of a forthcoming federal assessment of the efficacy of random drug-testing to deter illicit student drug use.
However, a previous independent evaluation of student drug-testing programs conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation concluded, "Drug-testing, as practiced in recent years in American secondary schools, does not prevent or inhibit student drug use." Investigators collected data from 894 schools and 94,000 students and found that at every grade level studied — 8, 10, and 12 — students reported using illicit drugs at virtually identical rates in schools that drug tested versus those that did not.
Separate reviews of the program have also found that the policy exacerbates negative relationships between students and teachers, and may encourage some teens to switch from readily detectable drugs like marijuana to more dangerous, but less detectable substances like cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin.
Nevertheless, despite both programs' poor track record, they've been long-standing favorites of several high-ranking drug war Republicans like former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and Indiana's Mark Souder — former head of the now defunct Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources subcommittee. Will November's Democratic takeover finally bring about tighter purse-strings to the Bush administration's sacred drug-war cows? Only time will tell, but at this stage I'm not holding my breath.
February 10, 2007
Paul Armentano [send him mail] is the senior policy analyst for the NORML Foundation
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