Bill tying welfare benefits to kids' grades advances - Tri-State News, Weather & Sports

Bill tying welfare benefits to kids' grades advances

State Sen. Stacy Campfield State Sen. Stacy Campfield

Tennessee lawmakers are considering a bill that would tie a family's welfare benefits to their child's grades in school.

It's another controversial proposal by state Sen. Stacy Campfield, R-Knoxville, and the House Health Committee on Wednesday voted 10-8 to advance the bill.

This bill has a lot of people talking, and it's again made Tennessee the butt of late-night jokes.

"Tennessee lawmakers have proposed a new piece of legislation that will penalize low-income families by reducing their welfare benefits if their children perform poorly in school. As opposed to what happens to children of wealthy families who perform poorly in school - they become Tennessee lawmakers," joked Jay Leno on Monday's Tonight Show.

Campfield's bill cuts welfare benefits by up to 30 percent for the parents of children who are failing school.

His bill allows parents to get their benefits back if they take certain steps to try to bring up their child's grades.

"I think people should pay more attention to it because this is very likely to pass," said J.C. Bowman, with the Professional Educators of Tennessee.

The non-partisan group Professional Educators of Tennessee said the bill punishes students who are often behind from the start.

"Getting parents involved is a good thing. But how do we best do that, and how do parents have any control over what their child's academic performance will be in the schools?" Bowman asked.

Campfield's bill passed a Senate committee after he agreed to amendments that would give the benefits back if parents demonstrate they're trying. Only those who do nothing would be penalized.

To restore the benefits reduction, parents would either have to take eight hours of parenting classes, attend two parent-teacher conferences, get tutoring for their child or enroll the child in summer school.

Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that he doesn't see a connection between welfare benefits and students' grades. The Republican governor told reporters he would "very strongly" consider a veto if it passes both chambers.

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