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TV REVIEW : 'Liberating Schools' Makes Case for Choice

April 23, 1993|MARTIN ZIMMERMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

That other "choice" issue raises its head tonight in "Liberating America's Schools," airing at 10 p.m. on KCET-TV Channel 28. The liberation in question is the implementation of school choice--either by the controversial voucher system or by fundamental change in the public school system.

As written and reported by Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Clarence Page, "Liberating" is unabashedly pro-choice; this is advocacy journalism and the show is heavily skewed toward ditching the present educational system.

Page makes a slight effort to provide balance, allowing brief comments from critics such as Jonathan Kozol, author of "Savage Inequalities," a book that lays blame for bad schools on the funding differences caused by a system based on property tax support--rich neighborhoods breed rich schools, poor neighborhoods the opposite. Even these, however, are quickly countered by a pro-choice backer.

Even so, everyone agrees that our schools are a mess, and the pro-choice arguments are frequently powerful. "Liberating" serves up examples of what Page says are successful programs in Minnesota, New York and Milwaukee.

Not all are voucher systems but all are different forms of the same animal: Schools are allowed the freedom to innovate, students and parents are allowed to shop around for campuses that suit their needs and administrators and teachers are held accountable for the product--our kids.

With all of these ideas on the table in California, "Liberating" provides timely food for thought on a subject in which we all have a stake.

(Also on tap for those interested in the state of our educational system is "America's Education Revolution," at 8 p.m. on KVCR-TV Channel 24, at 9 p.m. on KCET-TV Channel 28.)

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