In the throes of rampant budget cuts throughout the nation, new legislation in Tennessee, if passed, would cut welfare payments to families 20 to 25 percent. The reason? Their children perform poorly in school. This legislation aims to put pressure on parents to stay present and active in their child’s education, but it effectively delegates the responsibility to contribute to the family’s income on the child.
Children cannot handle this amount of stress on top of social and academic pressures. Should children be penalized if these anxieties catch up to them? Should it affect their entire family? There are numerous factors that can contribute to a child performing poorly at school, and yes, improper parenting is among them, but poor grades are not evidence of deadbeat parents. Children earn poor grades when they cannot focus on their work.
The small percentage of lazy, irresponsible parents should not be the primary focus of this legislation. This bill comes at a time when people are struggling to maintain minimum wage jobs or find some work to provide for their families. Low-income families do not have the flexibility or financial security to sustain a 25-percent blow to their welfare. Children already empathize with their exhausted parents, and that alone causes them to worry while in class.
There is a correlation between low-income families and their children’s performance in school, but negative family values or general neglect are not as common as issues such as when the family will eat a full meal or if they have the funds to send their children to enriching after-school activities. This bill is discriminatory to those who prioritize rent and food over tutoring. Parents are responsible for the burden of stretching welfare checks. Children should worry about their next soccer game instead of feeling responsible for why their brothers, sisters and parents are hungry.
Try going through most of the day without eating and try to focus on your work. Remember grade school without breakfast? Lunch could not come sooner, and as you daydreamed of pizza, social studies and arithmetic were over. Without that 25 percent of the welfare check, children could be experiencing this daily.
There should be guidelines and requirements to help these families instead of damage them more. The bill offers these families a chance for those affected by a cut in their welfare checks, though. If the child goes to summer school and successfully improves his or her grades, that 20 to 25 percent will be reinstated to the family. But a child should not have to bear the burden of knowing that if they cannot pass a summer course, their family will lose their home or go hungry.