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Court Seems Leary of Cable-TV Decency Rules

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The U.S. Supreme Court appeared skeptical last week about a federal law designed to limit children's exposure to indecent programming on cable television.

The court heard oral arguments on Feb. 21 in Denver Area Educational Telecommunications Consortium Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission (Case No. 95-124). The case involves a 1992 cable-television law that requires companies to limit access to public-access channels that offer indecent programming.

Cable groups challenged the law as a violation of the First Amendment guarantee of free expression.

The outcome could also provide an indication of whether a recently enacted law designed to limit children's on-line access to indecent material would pass constitutional muster. (See Education Week, Feb. 21, 1996.)

Separately, the court heard arguments in a case that will decide whether labor unions can sue on behalf of their members under the 1988 federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires many employers to give workers 60 days' notice before mass layoffs. The law at issue in United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 751 v. Brown Group Inc. (No. 95-340) applies to school districts.

Decisions in both cases are expected by late June.

Chairman Kean

Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas H. Kean has been named the chairman of the private-sector National Campaign Against Teen Pregnancy.

Mr. Kean will keep his job as the president of Drew University in Madison, N.J., while he serves in the volunteer position.

The Washington-based campaign, an outgrowth of President Clinton's call for action on the issue in his 1995 State of the Union Address, was to hold its first board meeting last week. (See Education Week, Feb. 7, 1996.)

The other board members include Sen. Nancy L. Kassebaum, R-Kan.; former Sen. Warren B. Rudman, R-N.H.; former Clinton administration domestic-policy adviser William A. Galston; David A. Hamburg, the president of the Carnegie Corporation of New York; former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop; and former U.N. Ambassador Andrew J. Young.

Insurance Report

State and private-sector efforts to offer health insurance to children who are not eligible for Medicaid and cannot afford private insurance appear to be successful in increasing children's access to health care, concludes a General Accounting Office report.

The track records of such efforts could prove illustrative for other states and Congress if Republican lawmakers succeed in changing Medicaid, the federal-state program that insures some low-income people, from an open-ended entitlement to a block grant, the study notes.

The report, released last week by the GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, studied six programs in five states--two privately funded and four state-funded. The programs operated within fixed budgets and had to restrict eligibility for subsidized services. Five of the six programs also had to cap enrollment at times and place eligible children on waiting lists, the study found.

But the limited research that was available indicated that the programs gave children a better chance of getting the care they needed and reduced inappropriate use of hospital emergency rooms in some cases, the report says.

Single copies of the report are free from the GAO, Box 6015, Gaithersburg, Md., 20884-6015; (202) 512-6000.

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