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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Tenn. Bill Ties Welfare Benefits To Kids’ Grades

Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, speaks to reporters outside the Senate chamber in Nashville, Tenn., on April 25, 2012, after the chamber passed his bill to  require drug testing as a condition for receiving welfare. He's now sponsoring a bill to tie welfare benefits to students' grades in school. (Erik Schelzig/AP)

Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, speaks to reporters outside the Senate chamber in Nashville, Tenn., on April 25, 2012, after the chamber passed his bill to require drug testing as a condition for receiving welfare. He’s now sponsoring a bill to tie welfare benefits to students’ grades in school. (Erik Schelzig/AP)

The Tennessee state senate will take up a bill tomorrow that ties a family’s welfare payments to its children’s school grades.

Parents whose children “fail to maintain satisfactory progress in school” would see a 30 percent reduction in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) payments.

“What we’re saying is, if your child is failing, parents, you have to do something.”
– Sen. Stacey Campfield

For example, a single mother with two children who receives $185 a month would see her payment reduced to $129.50 a month.

The bill was sponsored by state Sen. Stacey Campfield, who says the measure would not affect any food or housing programs, and would not include children with physical or mental disabilities.

“If a child is failing, then we’re going to put some responsibility – not on the child – but on the parent,” Campfield told Here & Now’s Robin Young. “Perpetual failing children lead to another generation of poverty.”

Avoiding The Penalty

Amendments to the bill would allow families keep their full benefits if the parent takes steps to improve their children’s grades or their parenting skills.

“What we’re saying is, if your child is failing, parents, you have to do something. You have to, one, put your child in a tutoring program – we have them free all over the place. Or, you have to enter a parenting course – we have those free. Or, three, you just have to go to a parent-teacher conference. Or enter your child in summer school. If you do any of those things, you get your money. If you refuse to do any of those things – refuse – then yes, we’re going to take that money and put it back in the program and give it to people who will do those things to help get their children out of generational poverty,” he said.

Fierce Opposition

Critics say the law would put too much pressure on children, and also worry that in some cases kids could face physical abuse over their school performance.

Tennessee’s Clergy for Justice has organized a petition to defeat the bill.

Democrats are also strongly opposed to the bill, but it has strong support among Tennessee Republicans who hold a majority in both houses.

Republicans say the law would simply hold parents accountable for their children’s education and help break the cycle of poverty.

Would you support Tennessee’s plan to tie a family’s welfare benefits to its children’s grades in school? Join the debate on Facebook.


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  • sam

    I generally vote with Dems and do support some social programs.
    But this, makes total sense to me.
    If it was me, I would vote for this.

    I don’t understand how parents don’t normally already do this – be involved in their children’s education and take responsibility in helping their children.

    If you do not care how your child does in school, then you’re not a very good parent.

    The exemption criteria seems way too lax as well. An 8 hour parenting class?! Are you kidding me? 8 hour class isn’t going to change the way these so-called parents “PARENT” their children.


    • Nicole

      Sadly, MANYMANY parents DO NOT have involvement in their children’s lives. This will encourage that and lots can be learned in an 8hr class, lets not be so quick to judge.  :)

      • Bailey1208

        Your rhetoric and inappropriate use of caps already implies east coast stay at home mom.  Don’t feel the need to include the smiley face ;)

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          thats rude and uncalled for but i cant say i did not laugh

  • J__o__h__n

    This should be done for child tax deductions too.  Why should only the poor be subjected to this?

  • Boston_mom

    Rocket surgeons!? He says the kids don’t have to be rocket surgeons! WOW. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.thompson.56808 Chuck Thompson

    “Straight-A rocket surgeons?”

    Did he really say that?  Are we sure he didn’t skip out on English class?

  • Diane

    This is more of the same from the GOP. And it has nothing to do with the health and welfare of our most vulnerable.

  • Leerosenthall

    Did this genius actually say “It’s not rocket surgery.”?

    • doktorzoom

       It’s a favorite phrase for Campfield. He thinks it’s “folksy.”

    • Livingagreenerworld

       Welcome to Tennessee politics.

  • Mike

    I lean to the left politically but this kind of stuff ticks me off.  Attending two meetings a year is such an insignificant time commitment for a non-working parent.  I think they should be weekly meetings.  The fact that this discussion is even happening shows how entrenched this philosophy is that you can live off the state if you want to…  and all you have to do is sacrifice your standard of living.  This is an enabling philosophy.  I believe in helping people but I don’t believe in handing out taxpayer money with no strings attached.  

    • FrustratedMom

       Mike, the teachers would revolt!  My son struggles and I’ve wanted weekly meetings but the teachers don’t even want to show up to the quarterly school nights.

      • http://twitter.com/NA_Dellsey Steven Delpome

        how many children does your child’s teacher teach?

  • c highley

    The compromise solution seems obvious: if the supporters of this bill think a monetary incentive will truly end the cycle of poverty for these families, and meeting with a teacher “two times a year” is not that big of a deal, why not increase these committed parents’ welfare by the cost of two missed days of minimum wage work a year–that’s got to be like $50/day? So, for a mere $100/month they can end the cycle for these families and address what should have happened since 1996 anyway–raise the amount of money these families get. (Seriously, $180 a month? Why do they even bother?) Or just raise it by what they would have deducted, if they think that’s all that’s needed to get these parents to end the cycle for their families. (And honestly, why haven’t we fixed poverty yet? If it apparently only takes $60 a month to solve all the problems the poor are suffering…)

  • Shamm02

    I think listeners are reacting to terminology. It sounds like this program flags failing kids and motivates parents to get involved, with options. My experience working with kids in a poor neighboorhood taught me that the teachers cannot do it alone. Parents or community members need to be involved to make most feel kids feel worthwhile and responsible to participate in their education.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      thats what i found as well. there is a huge difference in outcome for parents that are involved vs ones that are not. people would be shocked when there is a yearly parents night and only 10 kids’ parents out of 100 show up 

      • RobertcBrown

         I would agree that increasing parental involvement is a good thing. But this is to be blunt a rather stupid way to go about it. Poor kids are already at a disadvantage this legislation places an undo burden on the child not the parent. And judging by some of the comments here sadly many people it would seem have not noticed that.   The bill places the first and foremost burden on the children not the parents.  Kids do good in school or your parents who are already dirt poor might be worse off is not the way to encourage improvement.   Stress is typically a bad thing when it comes to learning and if anyone here thinks for one second that this will not cause undo stress on the children then again to be blunt your fooling yourself.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          there needs to be some happy medium because right now there are kids who do not feel any stress about the fact they are failing because they get no motovation from the home.

  • FrustratedMom

     Thankfully, I’m not on TANF, but my son is failing 5th grade. I have a college degree, a good job, and am very involved in my son’s academic. I attend way more than 2 teacher conferences a year. I involve my son in any and all opportunities for tutoring that I can. But based on this state senator’s reasoning, if I were on TANF, I would lose money because my son’s grades were poor.

    This is penalizing families like mine and kids like mine, who deals with learning disabilities and disengagement in a school system that does not do ANYTHING to differentiate learning.

    • Lawrence

      Actually, you would not.  You said you have your child take advantage of available tutoring and attend more than two parent-teacher conferences a year.  Either one of those alone would be enough to prevent a parent’s TANF from being deducted.  

      You are an involved parent with a struggling student.  This is aimed at those parents with failing students that cannot even be bothered with taking two hours a year to meet with their child’s teacher.  This inspite of the fact that they are not working.  You do it and you are a working Mom.  Is it so unreasonable to reguire someone to do it if they are not working.  That said, I think they should offer an incentive for these same parents if their child is on the honor roll.  Then the kids have a better chance a college and that will have a bigger effect on reducing the poverty cycle.

      • pburt

         “You live in poor conditions, which contribute to your poor academic performance, so we will help by making you poorer.” This Campfield guy is mean, as well as a colossal jackass.

        • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

          i had a students parent tell me his daughter did not need to try in school because she was going to be pregnant and on welfare by 16

          • http://twitter.com/NA_Dellsey Steven Delpome

            yeah that’s a lie.

          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            its shocking but true. i could not believe any parent would say that about their child but it happened. you would not believe alot of what you see in an inner city school. why would you accuse a stranger of telling a lie? what would possibly be my motavation for telling a lie? do you have anything to add to the discussion?

          • Bailey
          • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

            why? ohhhhhhhhhh i get it i dont put my personal info on the internet so i must not have any right? is it any wonder when weirdos are snooping around for some reason? why should i go away?

  • Justhoping

    This is a really great idea, but it should be more than twice a year, and it should have incentives.  For example you get X amount per month, however, if your child is earning (by learning) good grades than you get X extra.  If you attend meetings – or better yet, show weekly involvement, i.e., even by contacting teachers by phone or internet (I don’t necessarily think you have to speak to a teacher in person to get the vital details of your child’s progress) than you get an additional X.  That’s what will break the cycle of poverty – which is not about money – it’s a mind set.

  • cpotts

    Great- another strike @ the poor; how about we take away tax deductions of the wealthy when their kids fail?

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      sounds great

  • JL

    What kind of message does this send to kids?  Intelligence = Worthiness?  Your family doesn’t deserve help because you are too stupid?  Some kids work incredibly hard, yet still earn low grades.  They should be able to have pride in their efforts.  This kind of a law is too high risk and will kill motivation.  Additionally, a desperate parent whose child is unable to earn high grades will simple start doing their child’s work for them, because providing for them is more important than being honest.  Who does that help?  This is the kind of uninformed, un-researched thinking that puts families and children already at risk into even more dire and desperate situations.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      dont worry their parents cant do it either

  • MarkVII88

    I don’t necessarily disagree with the spirit behind this legislation, but I do think it will ultimately put more pressure on the kids effected by this requirement and likely won’t have the desired effect of improving student performance.  My biggest wish is that states invested the proportional amount of money for education programs that benefitted high-performing students as they do for programs to assist struggling students.  All students deserve to succeed and reach their potential, whether it be access to advanced courses and programs or simply to score “proficient” on the standardized tests.  Perhaps my idea of equitability in education can be taken to task, but in terms of allocations, much more funding is spent on bringing struggling students up to a minimum standard than helping to advance over-achievers.  Is this really fair?  

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      nope and it happens in all sorts of ways

  • Ann

    Yes, he said “rocket surgeons,” but spoken language is full of misspeaks, especially when we’re really focused on content – like being intensely questioned on the radio.  This is normal; brains work that way.   One thing those enforcing the requirement might keep in mind is that meeting with teachers could be very intimidating to parents who’ve probably not had exactly great school experiences themselves.  Since the goal is to have them support their kids, I’d hope those working with the parents would consider such possibilities, be empathetic, and use their skills and training to make this “user friendly” for parents who want to do the right thing.

  • KathyTn

    Clergy for Justice is delivering a petition with over 2,500 signatures to Senator Campfield tomorrow morning and there also will be a community gathering at which a children’s choir will be singing. Happy to give details to whoever is interested!

  • Lawrence

    All in all, not a bad idea.  I think they should give these same parents a thirty percent increase if their student is on the honor roll.  It’s a win – win. They are right that the best way to break the poverty cycle is through education.  If these kids make better grades, they will stand a better chance of going to college.  That will break the poverty cycle.

  • Awiseley

    My personal thoughts on this matter are not fit for public reading. This is crazy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    i was a teacher in an urban school for 7 years and i love this idea

    • http://twitter.com/NA_Dellsey Steven Delpome

      no you weren’t

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        whats the point of your baseless accusation?

  • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

    i bet little billy won’t be bringing home any more Ds

    • http://twitter.com/NA_Dellsey Steven Delpome

      no, little billy will just check out putting even more people on welfare.  So this is a good policy?

      • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

        if he checks out he gets no more checks.  sounds good

  • http://www.facebook.com/staci.hopkin Staci Hopkin

    You have LOST YOUR MIND if you think removing children from homes of poor people and placing them in institution is a better idea. Love, a Mom who parents a few children who were removed from their parents because of poverty and were neglected and abused – which is the result in the VAST majority of places that institutionalize ANYONE in any place ever. Prisons, mental health facilities, orphanages, nursing homes: all places where extreme isolation and power dynamics result in terrible outcomes for many people there.  PS. You clearly have never lived in an orphanage, or have never been torn out of your parents arms by a social worker and told “they may come back!”

  • bvan

    Why stop with poor kids?  How about we tie into all government spending.  For example, if your son is failing math, police don’t have to respond if someone breaks into your house.  Or if your house catches fire and your daughter isn’t pulling at least a  C average, you need to reimburse the fire department for their time, equipment wear and tear and water usage.  Why should my tax dollars go to support these kids?

  • Skumguy

    Did you even read the above article?? Or better yet, go read the actual bill? What are the conditons the bill is looking to impose? Stop apologizing for selfish parents who do not give two poops about their children and their future.

  • Subscribe2

    How about this, Relieving teachers that don’t teach children adequately? Give them an opportunity to correct their program in a year then release them if they don’t improve? Alas, this idea has faults too but if education is a priority in our country, then the teacher must be accountable for the job they do too.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      usually what happens is widespread cheating when you make the test scores important to the teachers bottom line.  if the student is not getting any signals from the home that school is important that makes the teachers job much much more difficult. the teacher sees them for 45 minutes a day 180 days a year, thats not enough time to counteract the rest of their influances. parents need to be responsible for their kids and forcing them to attend a parent teacher meeting or two does not seem unreasonable at all.

  • Adorabruce

    Time to stop the insanity in Tennessee.   Defeat the “Starve the Welfare Kids” bill.   It’s not the kid’s fault … and rich kids make bad grades too.

    • http://www.facebook.com/futo.buddy Futo Buddy

      the rich kids just mooch of their parents for the rest of their lives the poor ones mooch off of the taxpayers for the rest of their lives

  • Nicole’s 2

    THIS SOUNDS REALLY GOOD!!!  If everyone has listened to the entire proposal, parents are only required to attend two parent-teacher conferences A YEAR if their child is failing.  This is not making extra hoops for busy poor single parents to jump through, this is forcing involvement!!  We should really encourage this! This bill is giving the power BACK to the people to control the outcome of their own lives! I was really excited to hear about this!  This is VERY GOOD!  It will only reap benefits!  I say, GIVE A CHANCE!!! YOU WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED! 

  • Bailey

    This mans record, comments and general acumen for office leave me speechless.  Surely the land of Davy Crockett can find better statesmen then this.

  • Amanda

    Are we completely unable to implement a rewards program?  Let’s just keep punishing people who already have so much to deal with. 

  • KCorr

    I may be in the minority here but as one who works in the inner city and with
    people at or under the poverty level on a daily basis, I feel that Sen Camfield may be on to something here. Tho a. DEM and one with liberal leanings, the one thing Ive found which can make a difference in childrens lives and breaking the cycle of poverty is parental involvement. Anything which will incentivize that involvement is a good thing, be it a carrot or a stick.

  • Carlymeg

    Um, read Campfield’s blog. http://www.lastcar.blogspot.com the man can’t form a proper sentence, and doesn’t seem to understand contractions. The hypocrisy in that is mind blowing to me. I have had email correspondence with him where he refers to spelling and proper grammar as a “stupid issue”. This man has absolutely no place to talk about education. 

  • Mark

    Moronic!!  Only word I can imagine.

  • Lsbeth

    This is awesomely stupid because all families have two parents and welfare actually provides enough money to live a decent life and there is no bullying and a single parent can just get a diagnosis and label for their child with no stigma and rich kids don’t have any delinquent or failure problems comparatively and OMG.

  • Lilah

    As a democrat, this is the first time I have agreed with a republican. And, yes, Sarah, I did grow up poor. My dad was in the military in the 60′s through the 80′s and I can remember my parents taking out a loan to get us a toaster.

    The difference is that my parents generation (they are in their 60′s) did not have welfare systems to rely on they way people do today, nor were they raised to believe that others should care about and pay for their circumstances. They grew up understanding that they were responsible for their decisions and that when there were hard times, you dealt with it. Others don’t owe you just by virtue of your existence or your child’s existence.

    I am really thankful they passed these values on to each of us kids. Out of 4 of us, not one of us had children until we were in our 30′s and financially stable and in stable relationships. We didn’t have kids just because we could and then think about the financial cost later.

    What is ridiculous today is that people have to prove financially responsibility and ability when it comes to purchasing a car but they can have a whole human being without having a dime.

    In addition, people have children, and then they complain about the burdens of childcare, education, clothing, food, and most of all, the demands it places on them and their time. Parents today have been taught that what is wrong with their children is everyone else’s fault. They have to work to afford their kids, and this is everyone else’s fault. They are tired because they have to work and then can’t spend time with their children reading and doing homework, so that must be the fault of the teachers and the government. It certainly couldn’t be that their fault that they wanted kids and to heck with the consquences.

    This isn’t a matter of a parent whose circumstances changed because they lost their job and ending up spending their savings and now are strapped or homeless. This is about those who are having kids they cannot afford in the first place. If you have to work multiple jobs to support your choice to have children, that was your choice. If I had had a say in your choice, I would have checked your financial records and made sure you had fully investigated all of the costs and responsiblities that come with having children. However, I don’t have a say. Instead, those of us who think before we act have to sit back and hope that those around us are doing the same. The fact that there are parents that don’t is not an excuse. If you go charge up a card and end up with a bill you can’t pay, you are still responsible for it.

    And that is what it comes down to. Today there is a lack of self-responsibility for the circumstances people find themselves in. People expect the rest of us to clean up their mess or we are bad and selfish people. How dare we be successfull when you have hungry kids! Well, if I don’t have the right to hold you accountable for having children that you cannot afford, then why should you have the right to expect me, a contributing member of society, to pick up the bill through my hard work and thoughtful decisions? This political correctness in which we are expected to care for everyone else is getting ridiculous. These parents obviously don’t care about the stressors in my life, or how hard I work, or my 16 hour days, or how tired I am when I come home and then sit down with my kids to make sure they are doing well in school.

    And lack of education or growing up poor is not an excuse. It is called common sense. If you don’t have it, it is doubtful you ever will. In the meantime, if you are saying that you are unable to make good decisions and cannot pay for your decisions, then we as a society should be able to enforce birth control for as long as we are having to support you, and we should be able to hold you, and anyone else for that matter, responsible for the type of human being you are raising.

  • AC

    Get all the fools on your side and you can be elected to anything. Frank Dane

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