Public Schools: What Imagination Can Do

Four years ago, no public school in Cleveland offered hot lunches to its students. Now all secondary schools do, and last month the city became the first in the nation to offer free breakfasts, to 14,000 children in elementary schools. The milk-and-cereal program—which has dramatically cut down on absenteeism—is the brainchild of Superintendent Paul Warren Briggs, 55, who is steadily changing an ailing public-school system into a healthy one.

For nearly half a century, the Cleveland schools suffered from a combination of civic complacency, the steady flight of middle-class whites to the suburbs, and the limiting effects of a debt-free, pay-as-you-go...

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