SANTA PAULA : Board OKs School Use of Channel One

A controversial educational television channel that includes commercials was approved for use at a Santa Paula middle school by school board members Thursday night.

Channel One, operated by Whittle Communications, will be played daily in classrooms at Isbell Middle School by the end of the school year under a contract approved by Santa Paula Elementary School District trustees.

The vote Thursday was 3 to 1, with board member Gene Marzec dissenting.

Bill Honig, state superintendent of public instruction, has criticized the channel for airing two minutes of commercials during a 10-minute news show. He has vowed to cut funding for schools that use the channel because it takes nearly a day a year away from instruction time.

"Our bottom line is, during the school day, you simply cannot sell your kids for the purposes of advertising," said William L. Rukeyser, special assistant to Honig.

Rukeyser estimated that $15 to $25 per student might be cut from state funding if Santa Paula district officials accept Channel One.

However, Bonnie Bruington, Santa Paula assistant superintendent of educational services, said the program has received local support. "So far, it has been very positive," she said.

In addition to the daily news updates designed for young people, Channel One provides educational programs and teacher training, Bruington said.

Bruington said there are ads from companies such as Coca-Cola and Nike but no drug or tobacco ads. "It's a really clean, wholesome list of what they accept as advertising," she said.

The channel, which Bruington said is paid for by advertisers, will be installed free in all classrooms at Isbell Middle School, complete with television monitors and other equipment that costs about $50,000.

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