TN State Senator Wants to Tie Welfare Benefits to Children's Grades

Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) has introduced a bill that would lower welfare benefits for parents of children who fail to make "satisfactory academic progress" in school.

According to the Knoxville News Sentinel:

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." Those who fail to meet "competency" standards on end-of-course exams could also be deemed fall short of "satisfactory academic progress."

While Campfield thinks tying welfare benefits to a child's academic progress is a step toward "breaking the cycle of poverty," Linda O'Neal, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth, thinks the bill could end up making it harder on families already struggling through tough conditions, both emotionally and economically.

"The maximum benefit for a mother with two children is $185 a month," O'Neal said, referring to the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, which the bill applies to. "That's already low. If you take $60 plus dollars away, you're just further limiting people who already have extremely few resources...It's just piling on."

The current law says parents can lose up to 20 percent of welfare benefits if a child does not attend school. Campfield's bill adds the economic progress requirement and would increase the penalty to 30 percent.

This isn't the first time Campfield has targeted beneficiaries of entitlement programs. In 2011, Campfield wanted to force Tennessee residents seeking government benefits to first pass a drug test. He was also behind the ill-fated "don't say gay bill" in early 2012, which would have banned any discussion in Tennessee schools of "sexual orientation other than heterosexuality."

"Most people realize that AIDS came from the homosexual community - it was one guy screwing a monkey, if I recall correctly, and then having sex with men," Campfield said in an interview defending the bill. He also noted that it's impossible to contract AIDS through heterosexual sex, and said the lifespan of a homosexual is "very short." 

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