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Federal File: The video age; Computer humor

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The Council of the Great City Schools has taken an unusual approach to support the proposed "urban schools of America act," which would provide various types of federal aid to city schools. The organization linked up with a new video-production firm looking for exposure, and produced a videotape promoting the bill.

It features Congressional supporters, such as chief sponsors Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts; Representative William Gray 3rd, Democrat of Pennsylvania; and the former House Education and Labor Committee chairman Augustus F. Hawkins, a California Democrat who retired last year.

Other speakers include Constance Clayton, the Philadelphia schools superintendent and current council president; Glenn Doughty, a former professional football player; and several teachers and students.

The tape notes the social problems that urban schools face, and argues that investing in schools is essential if the nation is to achieve its educational goals.

The tape will be sent to each member of the Congress.

"It's like making 535 individual appointments," said Michael Casserly, an associate director of the council.

Michael L. Williams is apparently eyeing a similar approach.

The Education Department's assistant secretary for civil rights said in recent Congressional testimony that his office was working with cable-television networks, independent media producers, and educational institutions to develop videos on civil-rights issues.

One source said last week that planning for the videos and other television materials, including public-service announcements, was still incomplete.

President Bush's promise to set an example for his education campaign and become computer-literate has proven to be a target for humor.

For example, in a speech to state special-education directors last month, Deputy Secretary of Education Ted Sanders related how the President types "literally thousands" of letters each week by hand.

Because the correspondence is often replete with typographical errors, Mr. Sanders said, Mr. Bush notes at the bottom that he typed the letters himself "so no one will think ill of the White House secretaries."

"If any of you have ever received one of these letters," Mr. Sanders quipped, "you will know that the President could benefit greatly from learning to use a word processor."

--jm, lsa, & dv

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