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New Hampshire Legislature Endorses 7% School-Aid Cut

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Faced with a mounting budget deficit and strong local resistance to new taxes, the New Hampshire legislature last week adopted a budget that complied with Gov. Judd Gregg's request to cut school funds by 7 percent.

The biennial spending plan would provide $36 million in fiscal 1990 and $39 million in fiscal 1991, slightly less than Governor Gregg had proposed. Current spending is $40 million.

The legislature's budget, however, provides for full funding of the state's school-construction, special-education, and vocational-education programs. State officials warned that adoption of the Governor's proposal would have led to shortfalls in those areas.

To provide funding for those programs, the legislature agreed to eliminate the Governor's education-initiatives program, which former Gov. John H. Sununu had used to spur the use of educational technology and encourage the development of school-improvement plans. Governor Gregg had requested $1.4 million for the program to develop assistance for4gifted students.

Lawmakers also sharply cut--from $900,000 to $395,000--Governor Gregg's request for funds to screen potential dropouts.

In addition, the legislature agreed to distribute to districts sweepstakes revenues that had accumulated in prior years. The funds, to be distributed according to a foundation-aid formula, would add about $76 million in local aid over the biennium.

In other action, lawmakers approved legislation to restrict after-school work by 16- and 17-year-olds. Under the bill, students may work no more than 30 hours per week during the school year, and up to 48 hours per week during vacation periods. Principals must certify that student-workers have maintained a "satisfactory" level of school performance, and parents or guardians must sign the certificate.

Lawmakers also for the second straight year defeated legislation that would have denied drivers' licenses to students who drop out of school.--rr

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