Tennessee Parents on Welfare May Risk Cuts if Children Get Left Back

Michele Molnar reports on a new measure introduced by Tennessee state senator Stacey Campfield that would see welfare recipients losing up to 30% of their benefits if their child isn't promoted to the next grade in school on time. According to the description posted on the Senate website, if the student fails enough classes to jeopardize their promotion, their parents could lose some of the money they receive under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program administered by the state on behalf of the federal government.

Molnar writes that the bill was placed on the House Health Committee calendar on April 3rd.

The measure gives the parents a number of options to avoid cuts including enrolling their kids in a tutoring program in an effort to catch them up. In addition, they can take advantage of parenting classes offered gratis "in several places," or work closely with the child's teacher by attending a number of parent-teacher conferences.

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."

Parental involvement has long been considered key to child success in school, with a recent survey cited by Education Week showing that lack of support from parents or guardians was the chief reason for dropping out of school as listed by more than 23% of those surveyed.

The data comes from the 2012 High School Dropouts in America survey which was released last November by Harris/Dacima.

In the survey, conducted online in October, 55 percent of the dropouts looked into, but had not started the process of getting their high school equivalency or GED. The likelihood of doing so is higher for those who are married (67 percent). The reasons for not getting a GED: "not having enough time" (34 percent) and "it costs too much" (26 percent). One-third of high school dropouts say they are employed either full time, part time, or are self‐employed. Another 38 percent of the men and 26 percent of the women were unemployed.

Seeking a way to get those who dropped out of school to go back to get their high school diploma is considered a key to minimizing the negative impact that leaving before graduation has on the students' economic future. Those who never get a high school diploma not only are more likely to remain in poverty but also are more likely suffer a lack of medical care and die younger than their high school graduate peers.

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