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TN Senator Withdraws Bill To Link Welfare and School Grades

PHOTO: State Senator Stacey Campfield today withdrew his bill, which would have reduced cash welfare payments for parents whose children do not maintain satisfactory progress in school. CREDIT: Public Domain
PHOTO: State Senator Stacey Campfield today withdrew his bill, which would have reduced cash welfare payments for parents whose children do not maintain satisfactory progress in school. CREDIT: Public Domain
April 11, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Legislation that would link a family's welfare payments to its children's grades in school was withdrawn from the Tennessee Senate today by it's author.

Under the proposal, if a child failed to maintain satisfactory progress, the parents would have their payments reduced by 30 percent.

Kathy Chambers, director of Clergy for Justice, said it's a bad plan to shift the responsibility onto children.

"Basically, to carry the weight of their families on their shoulders," she said. "I received an email from a friend of mine last night, a teacher in Tennessee. She wrote, 'I've had two students come and ask me about their grades. One of these students told me the reason they were asking is because her parents told her if she had Fs to be ready for a beating, because they weren't going to lose out on their money.' "

The bill's author, state Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said those who receive the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits need to be accountable when it comes to their children's education. He said the legislation includes several options on how affected families could avoid the reduction, including having parents enroll their child in summer school or by attending parenting classes.

"What I'm doing is, I've put a burden on parents whose children are failing," Campfield said, "and I've said, 'If your child is failing all their classes to the point that they're not going to advance to the next grade, if you want our government benefits, we're going to put a requirement on you.' "

Chambers calls the bill immoral and unjust because it only targets the poorest children in Tennessee.

"When Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me,' he didn't give stipulations," she said. "He didn't say 'only if you knew how to read or write.' And stipulations shouldn't be given and certainly not placing the weight again on those little shoulders. That's just too much for them to bear."

Under the bill, a single mother with two children would see her payment reduced from $185 a month to less than $130 if her children didn't have a satisfactory performance at school.

Details on the bill, SB 132, are online at wapp.capitol.tn.gov.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TN