State Journal: Junk financing; Tipless

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If Gov. David M. Beasley has his way, South Carolina students and schools may get financial help from radioactive hospital gowns and used X-ray equipment.

The legislature is considering the Republican Governor's proposal to take revenue generated by a state-owned facility that processes low-level radioactive waste and use it for education.

The facility, located in Barnwell, S.C., was due to close in December of this year, when North Carolina was supposed to take its turn processing the region's waste. But it looks as if that state is not ready to open a site. So Barnwell may stay open for another seven to 10 years.

That translates into about $140 million a year in revenue, said a spokeswoman for the Governor. Under his plan, about 70 percent would go into a school-building fund, while the rest would finance college scholarships.

The fallout has been mixed.

"We're pleased to get the money, but it makes clear that funding education is not the priority," said Sheila C. Gallagher, the president of the South Carolina Education Association. "I mean, what have we taught the kids--they may feel at the bottom of the barrel."

A recent editorial cartoon in The State, a newspaper published in Columbia, the state capital, depicted two men overlooking a dump full of waste drums. The caption read: "Don't think of it as a nuclear waste dump ... Think of it as our children's future."

A Minnesota school-crime hot line that was supposed to result in busts ended up being one.

Last year, the state legislature set aside $20,000 for a toll-free "school-zone crime line," on which tipsters could log allegations about guns and drugs on campus. They could remain anonymous or leave their names and possibly draw a $100 reward.

The system at the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has been ready since August, but has logged just 20 calls. And it wasn't until last month that a tip came in--on a fire set at a school--that was strong enough to investigate, said Donald S. Peterson, the special agent who oversees the crime line.

Apparently, a notice about the line sent to districts last fall never made it to most building principals or students.

"My theory is if we solve one problem, or 10 problems, it's worth it," said State Rep. Jim Rhodes, whose legislation created the crime line, which cost about $3,000 to run this year. "We're going to keep it as far as I'm concerned."

--Lynn Schnaiberg & Millicent Lawton

Vol. 14, Issue 34

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