Bill Cutting Welfare Benefits For Bad Grades Advances - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Bill Cutting Welfare Benefits For Bad Grades Advances

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by Adam Ghassemi

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Opponents have already been vocal about how HB261/SB132 could unfairly target low-income children, but now they're also worried how the move could impact teachers.

"What kind of a burden is this going to put on our teachers who really need more time to teach and less time to do paperwork, tracking and that sort of thing," said Metro Nashville Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Fred Carr.

The bill would impact families after a child fails a grade and their parents don't attend at least two parent-teacher conferences.

Parents who don't comply could see their temporary Families First/TANF benefits cut by 30 percent.

DHS officials said the maximum TANF benefit is $185 a month. The penalty would make it $129.50 a month until a parent participates.

Currently, 52,800 Tennessee families receive the benefit, though it's impossible to know how many would be impacted by this education requirement.

Democrats held a press conference Tuesday to explain how much they oppose the bill they first thought wouldn't survive.

"We want to make sure people at home know what the Tennessee legislature is about to do to poor children in this state," said Rep. Mike Turner, (D) Old Hickory.

Bill co-sponsor Rep. Vance Dennis, (R) Savannah, explained to the House Government Operations Committee how this will hold parents accountable for their children's education.

"The bill is very specific. As long as the parent is going to parent teacher conferences they are not subject to any type of reductions," Dennis said.

Knoxville Senator Stacey Campfield introduced the original bill in the state Senate.

During Tuesday afternoon's hearing, a representative from Governor Haslam's office indicated the governor had withdrawn his support for the legislation on Monday.

Democrats didn't stop fighting it.

"You can't legislate parental involvement," said Rep. Johnnie Turner, (D) Memphis.

HB261 passed 8 to 4 along party lines and now heads to the House Finance Ways and Means Committee. It's companion bill, SB132, will go before the full Senate Thursday.

Some educators worry how complying with this proposed reporting system won't only monopolize their time, but their relationships with low-income families.

"In trying to encourage family and school relationships this does nothing to help that," said Stephen Henry with the Metropolitan Nashville Education Association.

One Republican representative indicated Tuesday he has heard from teachers who support the bill.


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