Tennessee lawmaker wants to tie welfare benefits to good grades

012813_dotcom_welfare_640By Barnini Chakraborty

A Tennessee lawmaker is pushing a controversial new bill that would tie welfare benefits to students’ performance in school.

Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield last week introduced the legislation, which calls for the state to cut welfare benefits to parents whose kids don’t do well in class. Critics are already panning the proposal as unfair, and one that could hurt students in the end — but Campfield is defending his idea, which he says would force parents to take a more active role in their children’s education

“We’re not asking children to re-write the Magna Carta,” Campfield told FoxNews.com Monday. “A D-minus gets you through.”

But state Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle told the Knoxville News Sentinel that the bill would “stack the deck against at-risk children.”

“How does Sen. Campfield expect a child to do his homework when there is no food on the dinner table?” he said.

Currently, parents of children who receive welfare benefits through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program can see their benefits cut by 20 percent if their child doesn’t show up for school. Campfield’s proposal goes a step further and requires students make “satisfactory academic progress.”

If they don’t, recipients could see their checks slashed by 30 percent.

“The misconception is that I’m cutting lunch programs or that this is going to hurt the handicapped or cut into programs for special-needs kids,” Campfield said. “It’s not.”

“Satisfactory academic progress” would be measured based on whether a student is advancing through grade levels and how they do on standardized testing.

“Nothing motivates people like money,” Campfield said. “We have done very little to hold parents accountable for their child’s performance. It’s unacceptable to have this generational cycle of poverty continue.”

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