Tennessee To Poor Children: Failed Geometry? No Food for You!


A Tennessee state senator has figured out why children from poor homes aren't doing well in school -- it is because their families' situation is not quite precarious enough! To motivate the lazy Poors to become better parents, Stacey Campfield (R-HardKnoxville) hasintroduced a bill that would cut Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits by up to 30% if children fail to make “satisfactory academic progress.” Sen. Campfield explains on his dumb blog that this will help "break the cycle of poverty." Because as no study ever has proven, the main thing that holds parents back from providing strong academic support for their kids is that they simply haven't faced losing a third of their already-low welfare benefits. It's just common sense.

Campfield takes an actual true thing about academic achievement -- research showing that one of the biggest factors in kids' success in school is the amount of support they get at home -- and draws exactly the wrong conclusion from it. You see, he says, educational success is a lot like a three-legged stool:

The state has put a lot of responsibility on schools and teachers to improve student performance. If the children don't produce, it could impact the pay of the teacher and the standing of the school with the state. We have pushed two of the three legs of the student performance (teachers and schools) to improve, and they are.

While we are captivated by the image of pushing a stool's legs to improve, we'll leave that aside for the moment, because Campfield is on a roll here:

The third leg of the stool (probably the most important leg) is the parents. We have done little to hold them accountable for their child's performance. What my bill would do is put some responsibility on parents for their child's performance.

You see! We have already held schools and teachers "responsible" by threatening budget cuts or firing for low performance on standardized tests of dubious quality, so why not start punishing poor parents, too!

Campfield's logic is impeccable. One of the big factors in poverty is low educational achievement, so if we just make things even tougher on families whose children aren't achieving, they will have a motivation to make them achieve. We just need to stop making excuses for parents who are not pulling their weight:

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.

Really, the only thing that these people understand is the sting of the lash, right? If your kid is not doing well, a cut in your welfare benefits is just the thing you need to sign up for a literacy class, get your GED, fill your home with books, and magically become able to help your kid do well in school.

Campfield even argues that his goal "is not to punish anyone," and claims in an update to his dumb blog that similar programs are "already working wonders in over 40 countries," linking to a NY Times story that is not about cutting basic benefits when students fail, but rather looks at how increasing benefits to encourage academic achievement has helped pull people out of poverty.

Not surprisingly, some crazy liberals have crawled out of the woodwork to oppose this common-sense solution; Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle told the Knoxville News Sentinel that he opposes the bill because it would "stack the deck against at-risk children," asking "How does Sen. Campfield expect a child to do his homework when there is no food on the dinner table?" Talk about a red herring! As Campfield points out on his dumb blog, his proposal would only affect TANF, not food stamps, so poor families would still have all the vodka and oranges they could possibly want.

Another enabler of the lazy Poors, executive director of the Tennessee Commission on Children and Youth Linda O'Neal, claims that a cut in the princely sums paid to TANF recipients would somehow be a hardship, but then turns around and denies that adding poor people even motivates them:

"The maximum benefit for a mother with two children is $185 a month," O'Neal said in an interview. "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...

Further, O'Neal said the bill, if enacted, would create a new paperwork burden on schools and the Department of Human Services, which oversees the welfare program, to determine when children are making the "satisfactory academic progress" as required"

Pshhh... she'd probably suggest something crazy like spending money on adult education or outreach to encourage poor parents to become more involved in their kids' education, crazy liberal ideas that never work, or if they do work, cost money.

Besides, we already know what helps students achieve: Loyalty oaths and pointing a gun at their heads. And, of course, praying.

[Knoxville News Sentinel / Camp4U / NYT]

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Photo by Daniel Stockman, Creative Commons license 2.0

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