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Two lawsuits have been filed in a New Hampshire state court contesting a community's tax-abatement scheme for property owners who sponsor students' attendance at private high schools. (See Education Week, Jan. 9, 1991.)

The New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union and the New Hampshire School Boards Association filed suit this month in Merrimack County Superior Court on behalf of 26 taxpayers in Epsom and the Epsom school board, respectively.

The suits, filed against the town's board of selectmen, challenge the Epsom statute, which abates property taxes as much as $1,000, primarily on the grounds that it violates provisions of the state constitution prohibiting the expenditure of tax dollars on religious schools.

Claire Ebel, executive director of the state civil-liberties union, said the two organizations also contend that the tax-abatement formula violates the U.S. Constitution's ban on government establishment of religion.

Backers of the measure, which went into effect in December, claim it will save the community $3,600 for every pupil who transfers from the neighboring public high school to a private independent or religiously affiliated institution.

The Iowa Board of Education this month parceled out the tiny Hedrick school district to three adjoining districts, closing the books on the state's first takeover of a school system accused of failing mandated academic standards.

The bulk of the Hedrick district's enrollment--about 200 of the 231 students in the system--will join the Pekin school district on July 1, according to the plan, adopted on a 7-to-1 vote. Other students will join the Fremont and Ottumwa districts.

The three adjoining districts--all in southeastern Iowa--are required to hire Hedrick teachers if they need additional staff members to handle the increased enrollment.

The state board seized control of the Hedrick schools last November after repeated warnings that the schools were not in compliance with education standards adopted in 1987. Critics of the move charged that the takeover was a veiled first step in a state effort to consolidate districts and kill off rural schools. (See Education Week, Nov. 28, 1990.)

U.S. District Judge Dan Morrison subsequently refused to halt the state's forced merger of the district.

Vol. 10, Issue 27

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