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Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010

Issue of the Week: Finger-scanning Kids

Plus Hero and Jerk of the Week

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The state’s Wisconsin Shares day care program has been under scrutiny since the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel decided to cherry-pick some cases of alleged fraud, sensationalize the claims, and plaster the providers on its front page. In response to the steady stream of headlines, reforms were enacted last year and more are to come.

The latest proposal, from South Milwaukee Rep. Mark Honadel, a Republican, is to electronically finger-scan the kids as they enter the day care facility. The assumption is that providers can’t be trusted to sign kids in and out honestly.

Take a step back and think about it. Even using the highest numbers of alleged fraud, only a tiny fraction of providers faces accusations of wrongdoing. Yet all kids would be finger-scanned because none of the state-licensed providers are deemed trustworthy. Then there are the privacy issues and concerns about finger-scanning only children from low-income families.

Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin, decried the proposal, saying in a statement, “The children in the Wisconsin Shares program, many infants under age one, are not inventory.”

Instead of enacting reactionary measures to appeal to a newspaper’s dwindling subscriber base, the state should boost its efforts to help the Wisconsin Shares providers become better day care operators: improved business training, more frequent inspections and high standards for care.

Hero of the Week

Habitat for Humanity Volunteers

Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity recently built its 400th home in the city. Aiding those who would not qualify for traditional home-loan services, the group helps families willing and able to put in 500 hours of sweat equity on their homes and those of their neighbors. Thousands of local volunteers have helped to design and build these homes sponsored by area businesses and parishes. Most of the houses have been located in the Washington Park, Amani and Harambee neighborhoods of Milwaukee.

Jerk of the Week

State Sen. Glenn Grothman

While the Obama administration is attempting to overturn the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexual servicemen and servicewomen—a plan endorsed by Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who said that “allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do”—state Sen. Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend) bemoaned a new law that would prohibit Wisconsin schools from promoting “bias against pupils of any race, gender, sexual orientation, or ethnic or cultural background or against sexually active pupils or pupils with disabilities.” He prefers a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gay students and their educators.

In an interview with a reporter from The Cap Times, Grothman fondly recalled the good old days at his Mequon high school in the 1970s, when “homosexuality was not on anybody’s radar. And that’s a good thing.” (He did admit that there were “a few guys who would make fun of a few effeminate boys” back then, but that doesn’t count, apparently.) As for today’s more enlightened sex educators, Grothman claims that some of them “would like it if more kids became homosexuals.”

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