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Public TV stations collaborate on program to fight high school dropout rate

Six public television stations in Florida will receive about $360,000 in funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting under a new program aimed at improving the nation's high school graduation rates.

The Tampa Bay area's two public TV stations, WEDU-Ch. 3 and WUSF-Ch. 16, will receive the largest share of Florida's money, splitting $135,000 between them.

The two stations, once rivals, collaborated on a joint grant proposal targeting school districts in Polk, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties with on-air announcements, programs describing the problems and a teacher town hall meeting, among other initiatives. According to the stations' proposal, those districts are three greatest at-risk school systems in their coverage area.

But because the two Tampa stations received less than the $200,000 originally requested, organizers must revamp their original proposals.

"Because Florida has such a huge dropout crisis, we want to put together the right plan," said Laura Fage, a spokeswoman for WEDU. "The good news is the CPB saw Florida needed help."

In January, Education Week ranked Florida's graduation rates 44th in the country, using its own formula (though it also ranked the state's education system fifth overall, mostly because it is improving). In its joint application, WEDU and WUSF noted the state had 100,000 students who did not graduate high school in 2009, with their lost earnings estimated at $27 billion.

Overall, the CPB is granting $4.4 million to 20 communities across the country in its American Graduate program, aimed at targeting areas where the dropout crisis is most acute. The agency announced the national initiative earlier this week with a press conference featuring former Ugly Betty star America Ferrara and CSI: NY star Hill Harper, among others.

In Florida, the list of stations also receiving grants includes: WFSU in Tallahassee ($75,000), WJCT in Jacksonville ($60,000), WLRN in Miami ($60,000), WCEU in Daytona Beach ($30,000). The stations also plan to coordinate activities across the state and contribute material to PBS and NPR.

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The Tampa Bay area will be the first community featured in an initiative documenting the history and literary life of eight southeastern cities, organized by the public affairs-centered cable channel C-SPAN.

Next week, three specially detailed Local Content Vehicles — vans bearing the logo of the cable channel — will fan out across the area, filming stories and events for a series of programs airing May 28 and 29 on the C-SPAN 2's Book TV and C-SPAN 3's American History TV channels.

Producers plan to visit Haslam's Books, the Poynter Institute for Media Studies (which owns the St. Petersburg Times), Inkwood Books and the Tampa Bay History Center, among other places. They'll also take a look at plans for the 2012 Republican Convention in Tampa, working with local cable provider Bright House Networks to iron out logistics.

The initiative kicks off with an 2 p.m. press conference Monday at the History Center featuring newly elected Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and some of the people to be featured in the programming.

Public TV stations collaborate on program to fight high school dropout rate 05/05/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 5, 2011 8:53pm]
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