New bill would fine families using state assistance if their kids don't regularly attend school

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU)- In a 62 to 35 vote Wednesday, the Wisconsin State Assembly passed a bill that would fine parents who receive benefits through state work programs if their kids are not regularly attending school.

Photo: Ty Hatch / CC BY 2.0

Local republicans say it’s a motivation tactic to keep kids on the educational path.

“We're talking about families that are already taking taxpayer money, so you've got taxpayers who are paying for the schools their children are supposed to be at, and then also giving helping them a handout through tax dollars to meet other life-giving issues,” said Eau Claire County Republican Party Former Chair Brian Westrate. “If you're going to take our assistance and having us provide these educational benefits, we're going to ask you to take some ownership of your child's education.”

The current law only requires children of families receiving state assistance to be enrolled in school. The new bill would fine families $50 a month for each child with five or more unexcused absences a semester.

Local Eau Claire County Democratic Party Chair Beverly Wickstrom says it will only produce a ripple effect, hurting families and children.

“Truancy is an issue that affects people in all economic groups, the rich, the middle class, the poverty,” Wickstrom said. “To target this solely on poverty, who have the least ability to pay these fines from whom you'll be taking money which should be used for food, for clothing, for shelter, is really regrettable. It's not attacking the true causes of truancy.”

The bill also encourages students who have problems attending school to get counseling to keep kids in school, the bill's goal according to its sponsor Representative Joe Sanfelipo (R- New Berlin).

The bill still needs to pass the Senate before it goes to Governor Walker to become a law.

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