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Tennessee GOP tying benefits to kids' grades in new bill

Tennessee GOP tying benefits to kids' grades in new bill
Tennessee welfare recipients could soon face a new hurdle in qualifying for assistance: their children’s grades. A new Republican-sponsored bill could cost families 30 per cent of their benefits if a child fails to show satisfactory progress in school.

Tennessee's Knoxville News Sentinel reports that the state’s Department of Human Services has been involved in the drafting of the bill (SB132), withdrawing opposition once it was amended to provide parents with several options in avoiding the reduction in benefits. They will now have the option to sign up for 'parenting class,' enroll a child in a tutoring program or attend a parent-teacher conference before benefits are cut.

Still, the new bill faces strong opposition from at least several Democrats in the state’s legislature. Rep. Gloria Johnson, a high school special education teacher, has stated that the new law is discriminatory, and would put “the burden of the family budget on children’s performance in school,” as well as target struggling families: The bill “sets up a terrible relationship between families and educators,” Johnson continued. ”It sets up animosity between school and home.”

Johnson also noted that there is no state law which targets higher-income families with under-performing children.

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Mike Turner is also concerned for children who may suffer from undiagnosed learning disabilities, and also questioned the exemption for homeschooled children.

Meanwhile, Rep. Vance Dennis, one of the co-sponsors of SB132, believes that the new legislation will be a “carrot and stick approach,” and is only meant to measure up “parents who do nothing.”

Dennis also believes that the new bill could help children suffering from learning disabilities by pushing parents into having them assessed.

According to the News Sentinel, the measure will go through a committee hearing in the State House, and will then be up for a vote in the State Senate.