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The chairman of the New Hampshire board of education wants to make it easier to act on charitable impulses.

Ovide Lamontagne, along with other civic leaders, has created a foundation, the New Hampshire Local Endowment and Resource Network, to receive donations for schools.

Members of the group are acting in their capacity as private citizens, but leaders say they will seek nonprofit status.

A school could tap in to interest accrued on its share of the fund's endowment once that share reached $25,000.

School boards could vote to accept or reject gifts proposed by local foundation trustees, but could not direct how the money was spent.

The fund would create a pool of discretionary money for schools to buy software or underwrite field trips, Mr. Lamontagne said.

First New Hampshire Bank has already announced its support for the venture by unveiling a new credit-card program that will donate 0.5 percent of the value of cardholders' purchases to schools of their choice.

"Any time the chair of the state board of education is taking a very public and aggressive step to get more money into the schools for improvement, that is a positive step and we applaud that," said Paul W. Krohne, the executive director of the New Hampshire School Boards Association.

But he warned that projects the fund would support should not be isolated from broader curricular goals.

Others said the fund would be a waste of time.

"This is a farce," said Douglas Knight, the chairman of the Granite State Taxpayers Association. "Education does not need more money, it needs qualified teachers."

Gov. William F. Weld of Massachusetts has proposed requiring a passing grade on a high school proficiency test before teenagers in the state can get a driver's license.

"It seems to me that's a way to concentrate the attention of the kids who are approaching 10th grade wonderfully, because one thing they do care about is getting that driver's license," Governor Weld told reporters this month.

The education-reform law the state legislature passed in 1993 requires competency testing for 16-year-olds to begin in the 1996-97 school year.

The Governor is expected to include the driver's-license proposal in a bill he plans to introduce to make other changes in the reform law.

--Meg Sommerfeld & JULIE A. MILLER

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