Tennessee Republican State Senator Stacey Campfield introduced legislation recently that would slash welfare benefits for parents whose kids get crummy grades. Critics call it an unfair proposal that will ultimately hurt kids. Campfield days the bill will inspire parents to do a better job.
Senate Democrat leader Jim Kyle says a graded for welfare plan would stack the deck against at risk children. It would pressure them to study when they have no food on the dinner table. The state already cuts benefits by 20% for parents whose kids don’t have to go to school. Campfields bill would raise that to 30%. Campfield believes his proposal would break the cycle of poverty. A single mom with 2 kids recieves only $185 a month in benefits, does anyone believe this is enough.
When Campfield introduced the legislation in January, he said parents have gotten away with doing absolutely nothing to help their children in school. He also said that it was child abuse. While Tennessee already ties welfare to education, this change would put the burden of maintaining benefits squarely on children. Can you imagine being 10 and knowing that how you do on this test can take away what helps your family get food. That is an awful lot of pressure for a kid. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ( TANF), meanwhile is failing students and their families. It serves fewer impoverished families and children that its predecessor did before the 1996 welfare reform law was instituted and it especially failed during the Great Recession, when the rates of families served fell in 35 states despite increases in both poverty and unemployment. Tenbessee’s welfare program is hardly robust, the maximum benefit is $185 a month and has remained that way since 1996. Low income students already struggle to keep up in school, further reducing the already modest benefits they receive from TAND. This isn’t likely to improve educational outcomes.
There was a petition to stop this started by Clergy for Justice, a Tennessee based organization of clergy that has previously advocated for causes including immigration reform, health care and anti-bullying laws. They say the public school system fails our kids time and time again, not reaching out to children that need it, not being available to tutor and leaving behind children that may need just a little more time to catch on to something. Now put the pressure on them that they will get less food if they don’t get good grades.
This isn’t the answer to our problems. These programs are there for people who need them. Instead if getting more revenue from taxes on the super wealthy they go after those that have nothing. Yes I agree some parents don’t help their children, but should the child be punished for that? No! We need to find a better solution, I probably don’t have the answer but it won’t stop me from trying.
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