Tennessee Senator Stacey Campfield has a great idea for beating poverty: Hand out family welfare benefits on the basis of their kids’ grades. The oldest sibling would be able to earn extra credit to make up for his younger siblings’ poor performance, and then over Spring Break, every school district will randomly choose a Class President to send to Washington D.C. for a nationally televised spelling bee that will determine their family’s health care eligibility. Or maybe I’m confusing his plan with The Hunger Games.
Campfield introduced legislation yesterday that he hopes will break the “cycle of poverty,” by reducing the amount of money families receive from the state (via the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF) if their children fail to meet set standards of attendance and achievement in school.
He explained in a TNReport.com video that education is “the only top ticket out of poverty,” but that “we have a problem where [...] people in poverty don’t care whether their kids graduate; go to school or not.” So he’s not just proposing a stupid solution; he doesn’t actually understand the problem.
On his own blog, he elaborated:
If your child is failing their classes, if your child is not showing up to school, if your child has quit school. That is unacceptable. It is highly unlikely that child will ever escape poverty. The state can not continue to support the generational cycle of poverty. Just because parents may have quit school does not mean it is acceptable if their child does. Parents are responsible to make sure their kids are ready for school and that they get an education. If parents are not holding up their leg of the job (and your kids are not special needs) then the state is going to start holding back a portion of that parents government benefits.
That’s his grammar, not ours. But that’s beside the point…so long as you’re not a child in a low-income family whose ability to construct sentences determines whether you’ll have enough money for breakfast.
If you’re confused by the exact terms of his proposal, so is he. When one of his blog readers asked him to clarify whether he intends to end food assistance to families whose kids are failing school, he replied: “No, the bill will not remove benefits from anyone as long as their kids don’t quit school, skip a ton or just start failing most of their classes.”
Photo: courtesy of Lion’s Gate Entertainment