Every so often some conservative governing body somewhere decides once and for all that they are going to do something about the welfare "crisis", and the others wait with baited breathe to see if the latest attempt will work. Last year conservatives in the state of Florida thought that it would be a good idea to subject all of those who receive public assistance to random drug testing, and as a result, only 1% of those tested came up positive. It was a complete failure. But the damage has already been done through connotation, and innuendo. When people are tested for drugs it is usually under the assumption that they are using, will use, or have used. So it creates a misnomer. Making those on public assistance synonymous with drug abuse. They exploit a stereotype, spin reality and create a boogeyman to blame for society's ill's.
"If you lose your job? Blame entitlement programs. Your taxes went up? Blame entitlement programs." It's seems as if so called "entitlement programs" like welfare are being blamed for everything, and they would have us to believe that a significant amount of government spending is allocated to public assistance. The fact of the matter is that it only accounts for 16% of the total federal budget.
But I suppose demonizing the poor has always been an effective way to get votes.
The latest attempt to oppress welfare recipients comes in the form of a new piece of legislation, which if passed, will penalize low-income families in Tennessee by reducing their welfare benefits if their child performs poorly in school. Thus making the child responsible for his family.
Sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) and Rep. Vance Dennis (R-Savannah), the bill “requires the reduction of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) payments for parents or caretakers of TANF recipients whose children fail to maintain satisfactory progress in school.
Campfield says the law would help "break the cycle of poverty." In a blog post comparing academic excellence to a three-legged stool, Campfield writes that "the third leg of the stool (probably the most important leg) is the parents," he explained. "We have done little to hold them accountable for their child's performance...This bill is giving them motivation to do more to help their children learn in school."
Should a low-income family’s child not meet satisfactory levels in the subject areas of mathematics and reading or language arts, the family’s welfare benefits will be reduced by 30%.
The bill (Senate Bill 132, House Bill 261) applies to low-income families, with no mention of penalties to middle or high-income families whose children perform poorly in school.
Tennessee state representative Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) calls the bill “discriminatory.”
“It’s just one more way to punish families who have fallen on hard times,”
“I don’t believe for a second this will do anything to improve a child’s education.”
As a high school special education teacher, Johnson said that this kind of bill is not what at risk students need.
Johnson then went on to say.
“To add the responsibility of the family budget on these kids, it’s not going to help these kids. It’s not going to move them forward. This bill sets up a terrible relationship between families and educators,” Johnson continued.
”It sets up animosity between school and home.”
This controversial bill has given many cause for deep concern including Linda O'Neal, director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth.
"The maximum benefit for a mother with two children is $185 a month," said O'Neal. "That's already low. If you take $60 plus dollars away, you're just further limiting people who already have extremely few resources."
According to the bill, "satisfactory academic progress" means progressing 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."
This bill does nothing more than punish those families who have fallen on hard times. It there was a legitimate concern for children getting an education then there would be penalties in place for the parents of all failing children, instead of those children who are least likely to get a good education. The only real concern is the desire to save a buck.