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The New Jersey Education Department will hold hearings this week with board members and administrators from the Newark school district after questioning the propriety of spending $74,000 on five new cars for board members' use.

The state, which is attempting to take over the troubled 48,000-student district, first raised questions about the cars when its acting auditor general, who is in Newark monitoring the district's finances for the education department, was asked to approve the purchase. A top state official forbade the purchase in a letter to the Newark superintendent, but local officials have apparently chosen to keep the cars, a department spokeswoman said.

District officials told the state that the board members need the cars to be able to visit local schools. But state officials said that no other New Jersey district offers such a perk and that they are leery of the precedent.

The state has subpoenaed the board members and top Newark administrators for hearings this week, officials said. The Newark officials may soon become familiar faces in the education department's offices in Trenton; the state expects to launch hearings on taking over the district in February.

The state school board and legislature in West Virginia are fighting over who has the authority to give Henry R. Marockie, the state school superintendent, a raise.

The legislature gave the state chief, who made $70,000 last year, a $5,000 annual increase earlier this year, but the pay raise was delayed until 1997. But board officials decided to give Mr. Marockie a $15,000 increase with no delay.

The state's supreme court will resolve the conflict.

The state superintendent's salary has been adjusted at times by lawmakers and at other times by the state board, but, until this year, neither side has contested the other's generosity or lack thereof. Lawyers for the state board argue that the salary should be considered part of the board's domain since the superintendent is an appointed rather than an elected official.

Mr. Marockie's pay raise is linked directly to the question of who serves as his boss. The board's lawyer argued that if the legislature controlled the superintendent's salary, it would control the superintendent--a measure of power that the board would like to claim for itself.

--Lonnie Harp

Vol. 14, Issue 15

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