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Both houses approve drastic changes in Wisconsin Shares child care program

Gov. Jim Doyle promises to sign a major bill to reduce fraud and get criminals out of the state's tax-funded child care program for the working poor.

Both houses unanimously approved reforms Thursday in the Wisconsin Shares child care program.

That's after child care providers fraudulently received millions in state funds for care they didn't provide - or served parents who didn't qualify.

Auditors and news reports also found criminals serving as child care providers, and a few sex offenders living in tax-funded care centers.

The bill requires quarterly background checks for all providers.

State licenses will be suspended if providers or their workers and residents are charged with serious crimes and the licenses will be revoked upon convictions. Local bureaucrats could no longer look the other way, because they'll have to report the fraud and abuse they see to authorities.

Republicans wanted to add a dozen more reforms, but Democrats rejected them as being offensive or unneeded.

Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, accused the GOP of trying to look tougher to the voters, while portraying Democrats as weak on a problem he says both parties care about.

Rep. Robin Vos, R-Racine, says the bill doesn't go far enough, and the fraud will continue.

Among other things, the GOP amendments would have limited the appeal process for suspended providers, required fingerprinting of care providers, and set a deadline for the state to begin an electronic system for child care attendance at tax-funded centers.