By Nick Wing
Tennessee state Rep. Stacey Campfield (R) introduced a bill this week seeking to make welfare benefits contingent upon the grades of a would-be recipient’s children.
Campfield’s legislation, filed Thursday, would “require the reduction of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) payments for parents or caretakers of TANF recipients whose children fail to maintain satisfactory progress in school.” TANF is more commonly referred to as welfare.
Under Campfield’s bill, welfare recipients would face a loss of benefits if their children showed poor academic performance. It’s unclear how these factors would be tied to one another, or how the children’s performance would be assessed.
In a blog addressing his proposal, Campfield calls his bill a measure to “break the cycle of poverty.” According to Campfield, education is a “three legged stool” comprised of schools, teachers and parents. He claims the state has adequately held the first two legs of the school accountable, but argues that it should apply more pressure on the third.
“The third leg of the stool (probably the most important leg) is the parents,” Campfield writes. “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.”
Campfield has been a pioneer of creative ways to target beneficiaries of entitlement programs in the past. He was a driving force behind failed efforts to require Tennesseeans seeking government benefits to first pass drug tests.
He was also the legislator behind Tennessee’s controversial and ill-fated “don’t say gay bill” in early 2012.