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State Journal: Free labor; Stocking stuffers

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Free Labor

A Hawaii state representative got a cool reception recently when he suggested that the state have prison inmates work for free as school groundskeepers.

Rep. Marcus Oshiro suggested the plan at a committee hearing this month, noting that the state had saved more than $100,000 by having inmates mow the veterans' cemetery in Kaneohe. He said prisoners could do the same work at schools when classes are out in Hawaii's schools, which are operated under a unique statewide system.

The committee chairman said he would like to take some time to consider the idea, and suggested that convicts and schoolchildren seemed like an odd mix at any cost.

Others suggested that the state find work for the inmates at other agencies before assigning them to tidy up playgrounds.

No further action on Mr. Oshiro's plan has been scheduled.

Stocking Stuffers

Delaine Eastin, the California state schools superintendent, made an unusual appeal to residents last month: She asked them to put public schools on their holiday gift lists.

But officials in the state department of education said they have not heard of any unusual generosity that may have resulted. Officials said that they came up with the idea too late to push it very hard but that they may try again next year.

Microscopes, computers and software, paper and writing supplies, playground and sports equipment, and library books were among the stocking stuffers that Ms. Eastin suggested in a press release two weeks before Christmas.

"At this special time of year, we look at things in another perspective as we search for the perfect gift for our family and friends," Ms. Eastin said in the release. "One way of demonstrating that you care about your community is to remember your local public school."

And if giving "cash or material items" was not possible, the superintendent suggested, Californians could pledge their time as homework tutors, mentors, or classroom helpers.

Remembering schools at Christmastime, the state noted, is tax deductible, but the deduction must be taken under a separate section of the Internal Revenue Code from the section that applies to donations to non-governmental, nonprofit organizations.

--Lonnie Harp

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