Better To Give
In a holiday-season show of generosity, some Oregon citizens turned over their state tax refunds, or "kickers," to schools.
By Oregon law, if income-tax revenues for the state's general fund are more than 2 percent higher than estimated, the excess amount collected must be returned to taxpayers.
That was the case last year, so in late 1997, 1.2 million Oregonians received refund checks, averaging $282, from their 1996 income taxes.
From Thanksgiving through the third week of December, in response to a call for such donations, individuals gave $250,000 in kickers to the Portland Public Schools Foundation, either for foundation work or earmarked for particular schools in the 57,000-student Portland district.
Citizens in some districts outside Portland also heeded requests to give their kicker money to the schools.
The money comes at a crucial time for Oregon's public schools, said Cynthia Guyer, the executive director of the Portland Public Schools Foundation, which, with pro bono help from an advertising agency and free ad space from local newspapers, launched a campaign encouraging people to turn over their tax refunds to schools.
"Teachers have been laid off. Class size has gone from 24 or 25 to 30. Arts, music, library, and sports have been cut severely," she said.
A jury last month handed down guilty verdicts against two South Carolina state employees accused of switching the results of two General Educational Development exams.
Federal prosecutors had said that a state comptroller general's office official, John E. Brown, took the GED exam the same time in 1994 as a magistrate who needed to pass the exam to keep his position. Later, state education department official Stephon Edwards allegedly switched their results. ("Test-taking tempest," Dec. 10, 1997.)
A jury at the U.S. District Court in Columbia found both Mr. Edwards and Mr. Brown guilty of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, but not of actually committing mail fraud.
The conspiracy charges carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Defense lawyers have filed a motion asking a judge to void the conviction, claiming that the mail was not involved and so federal authorities had no jurisdiction over the case.
--MARY ANN ZEHR & JEFF ARCHER