TN Republicans Want to Tie Aid to the Poor to Student Test Scores

AP Photo/Erik SchelzigRight-wing education policy has been driven by a focus on student test scores, and one of the most common policies is to tie these scores to teacher pay and retention.

But a group of Tennessee Republicans has decided to go much further. State Sens. Stacey Campfield and Vance Dennis have introduced a bill that would reduce Temporary Aid To Needy Family (TANF) benefits to families where the students fail to meet certain test scores in school.

(You may recall that Campfield is the same state senator who spearheaded Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay" bill - which would have banned discussion in schools of "sexual orientation other than heterosexuality.")

The bill has cleared committees in the House and Senate, despite protests by many Democrats in the legislature. Although it has been amended to allow families to continue to receive benefits if they sign up for some intervention measure like a “parenting class,” what is particularly crass about the legislation is that it exclusively targets poor families that are receiving TANF benefits. It does nothing to penalize non-poor parents whose students fail to get certain test scores — such as by reducing tax benefits for richer families.

If passed, the bill could affect up to 155,281 people — the individuals who are currently receiving TANF payments in the state. “How does Sen. Campfield expect a child to do his homework when there is no food on the dinner table?” asked  state Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle in outrage.

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