There is apparently no end to the damage legislators in Tennessee want to inflict on their public school students.
Early last year, I wrote here about The Tea Party of Tennessee wanting to remove from history textbooks any incidents of slavery and genocide linked to the founders of the US, for fear those references would tarnish the image of the Founding Fathers.
Then there was the state’s so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay‘ bill, which died with the adjournment of the state assembly last year. But this year the measure is back, with new, harsher requirements. Tennessee teachers would still be barred from discussing any “non-heterosexual” sexuality in grades K-8, but in addition there’s a provision requiring teachers or counselors to inform the parents of students who identify themselves as LGBT.
And now this: the latest anti-education idea to emerge from Tennessee is a proposal to take away welfare payments from parents whose kids get bad grades or do poorly on tests. Bizarrely, this is supposed to “end the poverty cycle.” Are they really that clueless?
Republican State Senator Stacey Campfield apparently believes this is a great way to break the cycle of poverty, and he is determined to make it state law.
On his own blog, Campfield wrote:
One of the top tickets to break the chain of poverty is education. To achieve a quality education is 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 those two legs are important, one other leg has proven to be more important. The third leg has shown to have a greater impact on the children performance than the school, than the teacher, than race of the child, than the income of the parent, than the location of the student.
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.
As it turns out, current Tennessee law already requires that parents whose children do not attend school lose 20 percent of their benefits from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. Campfield’s bill will raise that penalty to 30 percent of benefits if a child is not performing at a “satisfactory” level. Is this just a money-making strategy?
The bill defines “satisfactory” 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.”
There have been other suggestions on holding parents accountable in the past.
Last year, parents of students at a Michigan high school learned that they could face stiff penalties if their teen skipped school. Commissioners for the city of Adrian approved an ordinance that could potentially punish parents of absent teens with a $500 fine and up to 90 days in jail.
Back in 2009, a school board in New Jersey decided that parents should have to pay whenever their children were assigned detention. And there are plenty more examples of making parents accountable for the behavior of their kids.
The reality is that there are numerous reasons children do poorly in school: they can’t focus on learning when there is discord in the home, or when they don’t get enough to eat, or when they are being bullied. The list goes on.
It’s also well documented that kids do better at school when parents are involved in their education. But taking away welfare payments isn’t going to make that happen. Instead, how about requiring that parents attend parent-teacher conferences? Or that students complete homework? Or that parents emphasize the importance of school rules with their children?
Campfield is correct when he says that parents can have a big effect on student achievement. But that’s a long way from believing that kids will be helped by losing public benefits for getting bad grades and test scores.
Taking away welfare payments will not break the cycle of poverty. Instead, it will make parents and kids angry. This is a terrible idea. Campfield earns an ‘F.’
What do you think?
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