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District Won't Hire Parents Who Are Behind on Child Support

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The Chicago school district has taken steps to prohibit the hiring of employees or contractors who are in arrears on child-support payments.

The move by the mayorally appointed school board in the 413,000-student district is rare among school districts. It follows similar action earlier this year by Mayor Richard M. Daley to crack down on delinquent child support.

The board unanimously approved the new indebtedness policy in June. "We didn't have a policy that specifically dealt with child support," said Marilyn Johnson, a lawyer for the district.

The new policy is an amendment to similar regulations that cover such debts as student loans and parking tickets, Ms. Johnson said.

It requires current and prospective employees to submit an affidavit disclosing their status on child-support payments. The district will assist authorities in collecting child support from current employees and will not hire applicants who are behind on their payments.

Bidders for district contracts must file affidavits as well. If a contractor is found to be delinquent, the district will add 8 percent to the amount of the bid. Then, if the contractor is awarded the job, the district will not pay the amount of the penalty.

It remains unclear, however, whether the policy will apply to employees of contractors or just the contractors themselves, Ms. Johnson said. Each case will be weighed upon its own merits.

Nationwide Activity

The new policy in Chicago comes amid a flurry of activity across the nation as states pass laws intended to crack down on child-support delinquency. And President Clinton, speaking in Denver last month, said pictures of delinquent parents would be displayed in post offices.

Illinois last month became the 22nd state to implement a law that calls for suspending the driver's licenses of delinquent parents.

Few U.S. school districts have specific policies to handle delinquent child support, experts said.

In Los Angeles, for example, the 650,000-student district participates in court-ordered garnishment of wages, but does not make hiring decisions based on an applicant's child-support status, said Sheldon E. Erlich, a district spokesman.

"We do normal criminal-background checks on applicants," Mr. Erlich said. But delinquency in child support "is not in and of itself an exclusion from employment."

Gery Chico, the president of the Chicago school board, said that people who are behind in child-support payments take a substantial toll on families as well as taxpayers.

"It is our responsibility to do our part and ensure that this very important obligation is met," Mr. Chico said in a statement last month.

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