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Column One: Athletics

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Los Angeles has become the latest of the big-city school systems to find an alternative way to fund its sports programs.

Food 4 Less Supermarkets, a large chain in southern California, this month announced the formation of the "Sports 4 All'' program, which will guarantee $10 million over three years to athletic and related programs, such as cheerleading and band, in the district.

The funding will come from a foundation the supermarket chain established last year in the wake of the Los Angeles riots to help children at risk and other disadvantaged people.

Joining the foundation are such big-name commercial enterprises as the Pepsi-Cola Company, General Mills, and the Miller Brewing Company.

Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago also now rely on the private sector to help bail out their financially strapped sports programs.

Local television newscasts in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area devote scant attention to education issues, a study by University of Minnesota researchers concludes.

And the coverage that exists more often than not is sports-related, notes the study by Mike Malone, Joelle Hoeft, and Joe Nathan of the Center for School Change.

During a 10-week period last spring, the researchers watched 113 nightly newscasts on four local stations.

They found that the news shows spent from 2.1 percent to 4.6 percent of their total time during the period on K-12 education issues.

Most of that coverage was devoted to high school sports, with one station broadcasting as much as 30 minutes about athletics for every one minute it delivered about academics.

Only one station gave more time to academics.

"Local TV stations are not solely responsible for how our children think and behave,'' observed the researchers. "But they do send important and influential messages each day about what our society values. We hope that this study highlights the implicit messages currently being sent to our children regarding educational achievement.''

The Florida Marlins may be the newest major league baseball franchise, but the organization is a fast learner. It's already figured out how to help students and turn them into fans at the same time.

With the aid of a grant from JM Family Enterprises, an automotive-products company, the team is offering a baseball-oriented curriculum this fall for middle school students in Dade and Broward counties.

There will be mathematics lessons based on various baseball statistics, social-science lessons based on the defunct Women's and Negro leagues, and trips to the Marlins' Joe Robbie Stadium.--K.D.

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