State Journal: Unity's choice; Bake ban collapses

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In New Hampshire, a state known for its tight-fisted approach to education funding, a $10 million windfall in school aid would seem like something that would generate good feeling all around.

The plans of three districts for spending their share of the money have stirred controversy, however, and led to a court setback for state officials.

Lawmakers this summer passed the additional money, with the understanding that it would be used to lower property taxes, according to Jim Rivers, a spokesman for Gov. Steve Merrill.

Nevertheless, the Claremont and Cornish districts scheduled special town meetings to let voters decide if they wanted to apply the funds toward local deficits, while the Unity district proposed using its $11,000 supplement to buy computers to comply with state standards.

The attorney general's office sought to block the meetings, contending that the funds could only be used for tax relief.
State officials eventually worked out a compromise with Claremont and Cornish, under which the funds would only be used for deficit reduction, but remained at odds with Unity.

A special meeting could only be called in an emergency, and buying computers "is certainly not an emergency,'' Mr. Rivers said.

A court ruled this month for Unity, saying that the bill did not specify how the funds were to be used and that the unexpected receipt of funds created a legitimate emergency.

"The taxpayers of Unity are in the best position to decide ... whether these unexpected funds should be used to buy computers for the school system or to reduce property taxes,'' the court held.

A Nevada decree banning school bake sales has collapsed like an overcooked souffle.

Last month, the state health office issued a directive to schools limiting food preparation to the cafeteria and home-economics classrooms. The edict sought to protect students from home-cooked or classroom-prepared items that might contain "potentially hazardous foods.''

No sooner had the school year begun than parents were complaining about canceled potlucks and fund-raisers.

Human Resources Director Scott Craigie quickly decided the idea was half-baked.

"I was a teacher for 10 years, and we occasionally cooked in class,'' Mr. Craigie recalled.

A new version of the policy is in the works, with advice on safe food preparation.

So parents and teachers will once again be able to enjoy casserole-induced bonhomie, and school programs will still benefit from cookie and cupcake profits.--M.S. & S.K.G.

Vol. 13, Issue 03

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