Law & Courts

Tennessee Parents Could Lose Some Welfare Benefits If Kids Fail

By Michele Molnar — March 29, 2013 1 min read
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Parents in Tennessee who receive federal public assistance payments could face up to a 30 percent reduction in their checks if their child fails to advance to the next grade, under a bill introduced by Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield.

The proposed law—Senate Bill 0132—would exempt special needs students and their parents. It was voted out of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and the House Health Subcommittee on Tuesday. It has been placed on the calendar for the House Health Committee on April 3.

According to the senator’s blog, the bill would allow “a reduction of cash benefits [under the state-administered Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] if a student were failing all their classes to the point that they would not progress to the next grade.”

Parents could avoid the dire consequences by:

  • Enrolling their son or daughter in a tutoring course, which Campfield indicates is “free in every school I know of,” or by setting up their own tutoring program.
  • Entering into a parenting course, which he says is also “free at several places,” and,
  • Attending “multiple” parent-teacher conferences to help the child get back on track.

Tennessee parents who are on public assistance already face a 25 percent reduction in some benefits based on a student’s truancy rate. However, truancy continues to be a pervasive problem, and the University of Tennessee law faculty and students who have been studying the issue are calling for reformed rules, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.

As Campfield told the Tennessean about his legislative initiative, “It’s really just something to try to get parents involved with their kids. We have to do something.”

Indeed, statistics from one survey show that 23 percent of high school dropouts report the “absence of parental support or encouragement” is the reason they failed to complete school.

But is this really the answer? What do you think of the senator’s idea to force parental involvement in their children’s education by threatening to withhold public assistance?

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A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.