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If you live in Tennessee and just so happen to be a parent on welfare, things may be about to get worse. Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield has introduced legislation that would cut welfare benefits for parents whose kids make bad grades in school. According to the language of the State Bill 132, welfare benefits will be reduced for parents whose children fail to make "satisfactory academic progress" in school.
Campfield is from Knoxville and has suggested that the move is designed to encourage parents to take a more active role in the education of their children. It's Campfield's position that SB132 will go a long way toward "breaking the cycle of poverty."
In a recent interview Campfield told reporters, "We've set the tone (through legislation) to push and improve teachers and schools [...] Now is the time to push those parents. This bill is giving them motivation to do more to help their children learn in school [...] If the family doesn't care if the child goes to school or does well in school, the odds of that child getting out of poverty are pretty low."
SB132 directly targets the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. At present, the law already indicates that parents or guardians of children who are receiving benefits can lose 20 percent of their benefits if a child does not attend school. Campfield's bill will raises the penalty to 30 percent if the child doesn't make satisfactory grades. The bill defines "satisfactory academic progress" as advancing from one grade to the next and "receiving a score of proficient or advanced on required state examinations in the subject areas of mathematics and reading/language arts." Students who do not meet these standards would be considered to have not met the "satisfactory academic progress."
If enacted, SB132 could hit those already suffering the hardest economically, most of whom will be African American. According to recent US Census data, approximately 34 percent of African Americans in the state of Tennessee live below poverty level.