Back in February, I wrote here about the latest anti-education idea to emerge from Tennessee: a proposal to take away welfare payments from parents whose kids get bad grades or do poorly on tests.
Bizarrely, Republican state Senator Stacey Campfield apparently believed that his bill, officially called the “Education to End Poverty Act,” would be a great way to break the cycle of poverty and was determined to make it state law.
Others disagreed with him: the act was nicknamed the “Starve the Children” bill by opponents and was widely criticized.
The bill would have reduced temporary assistance to needy families of children who fail a class, unless they go through a series of corrective actions, including taking a parenting class, meeting with teachers, enrolling a child in summer school or getting them a tutor.
Campfield’s bill cleared both the House and Senate committees but last week the state senator dropped his support for the bill, declaring that he needed more time to gain a full understanding of the impact of the bill on families.
The Tennessean thinks there’s a different reason:
Before Thursday’s session, activists organized a demonstration in the corridors of Legislative Plaza and the state Capitol. An 8-year-old girl confronted Campfield with a petition signed by opponents of the bill, and a choir of about 60 people, including some in clerical garb, sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children” outside the Senate chamber as lawmakers filed in.
Campfield walked away from the confrontation, saying repeatedly that he didn’t think children should be used as political props. But it was a long walk, and the confrontation extended over several minutes as video cameras recorded the back-and-forth.
“Why do you want to cut benefits for people?” 8-year-old Aamira Fetuga asked Campfield after she chased him up a Capitol escalator.
You can watch video of their interactions by clicking here.
Naturally, Campfield didn’t actually admit that Aamira’s lobby had anything to do with the delay of the bill.
You may recognize this senator’s name, since he has been making headlines for a while.
His infamous “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” a measure banning elementary and middle-school teachers from discussing sexual activity that is not “related to natural human reproduction” failed during a 2012 legislative session, and was resurrected again this year, where it failed again.
On its return, the bill included new language requiring school officials to inform parents if they suspect one of their students is gay. The measure also mandated schools to provide counseling to such students, to prevent “behavior injurious to the physical or mental health and well-being of the student or another person.”
Campfield’s opinions are so unpopular that earlier last year he was booted out of a Knoxville restaurant by the owner, Martha Boggs, who was disgusted by some of his remarks about gays and the origins of the AIDS virus.
Let’s hear a big shout-out for that powerful Aamira Fetuga!
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Photo Credit: The Tennessean