Published Online: March 11, 1998

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Talk show turmoil

Using taxpayers' money to open the world of television to deaf and hearing-impaired people is all well and good. But "The Jerry Springer Show"? That's going way too far, two angry senators told Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley last week.

Sens. Daniel R. Coats, R-Ind., and Joseph I. Lieberman, D-Conn., wrote to the secretary expressing their "outrage" over a grant program that helps provide closed captions on the outlandish--and extremely popular--daytime talk show.

The program, the senators wrote, "is the closest thing to pornography on broadcast television."

They were reacting to a Feb. 25 Education Week article about the $20 million grant program, which provides a wide range of services designed to give people with disabilities access to cultural and educational materials. The article noted that "The Jerry Springer Show" is one of many shows with captioning financed by Department of Education grants. ("Captions Open Window on Culture, Learning," Feb. 25, 1997.)

At a Senate subcommittee hearing last Thursday, Mr. Riley was asked about the complaints.

"We try not to pick programs"to caption, Mr. Riley responded. "I would be very careful in telling deaf and hard-of-hearing people what they want to see." He added that he had not seen, nor did he care to see, the talk show.

Hopping mad

President Clinton's proposal for financing special education has left some congressional Republicans infuriated. And they're venting their feelings.

"There are going to be no new education programs from this administration [approved by Congress] until this administration lives up to its obligation to special-needs kids," Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., declared during a Feb. 26 event in the Capitol. Mr. Gregg is the chief sponsor of a Senate measure that would boost special education funding by $10 billion by 2004.

The president's budget request for state grants under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act calls for an increase of just half a percent, from $4.53 billion to $4.55 billion in fiscal 1999. According to GOP estimates for inflation and the number of new students classified as disabled, that would amount to at least a 2 percent loss for districts.

"We're not going to sleep until we get more funding for" special education, said Rep. Frank Riggs, the California Republican who heads the House K-12 education subcommittee.

--STEVEN DRUMMOND & JOETTA L. SACK

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