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As I See It

Fining poor parents for their truant children



On the surface, it seems to make sense. Fining parents on public assistance whose children are habitual truants. That is the gist of legislation in Madison which has now won the approval of the State Assembly. Those behind the effort say it is important to keep kids in school. And they argue, taxpayers are paying for all children to go to public schools. On top of that, they are subsidizing things like welfare and food stamps, so parents receiving them should have an obligation to make sure their kids make it to school. But in reality, this bill would do little to correct truancy problems, and unfairly targets the poor. Current law only requires children of Wisconsin families receiving public assistance to be enrolled in school. It doesn’t say they have to attend regularly. This bill would fine families $50 a month for each child with five or more unexcused absences per semester. The fact is, truancy affects all economic groups, not just the poor. And there are already laws against truancy. This efforts focuses only on those in poverty, and there is no evidence that poor children are more truant than those from other economic groups. What about the rich parents who pull their kids out of school to take them to Disney World? Should they be fined too? Fining parents for their truant children only makes it less likely that those children will receive the food, clothing and shelter they need. If the goal is to keep all kids on a path to education, this bill gets a failing grade.

Scott Robert Shaw serves as WIZM Program Director and News Director, and delivers the morning news on WKTY, Z-93 and 95.7 The Rock. Scott has been at Mid-West Family La Crosse since 1989, and authors Wisconsin's only daily radio editorial, "As I See It" heard on WIZM each weekday morning and afternoon.

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