A bill approved by the Michigan Senate could cause families to lose welfare cash benefits if their children regularly miss school.
The Republican-dominated Senate voted 26-12 for the bill which codifies existing practice, The Detroit News reports. The bill won approval in the House, which will now have to approve the Senate’s changes. It will the go to Gov. Rick Snyder, who previously proposed some of the measures, for his signature.
Republicans say they aim to keep children in school. "The whole goal here is to make sure that children are in school, because they will succeed and they will have the chance to move ahead in their life if they are in school," said Sen. Judy Emmons on the floor, reports Mlive.
Democrats say it is unfair to punish an entire family because of one child’s truancy. Democratic Sen. Coleman Young II of Detroit proposed an amendment that would have prevented the state from cutting off assistance near the end of the school year because families would be unable to reapply over the summer, but the amendment was struck down.
“This is not about helping poor people. This is about kicking people while they're down,” Young said. “It's wrong. It's disgusting. It needs to stop.”
Bert Johnson of Highland Park offered an amendment that would have helped the families retain some cash. The amendment would have ensured non-truant family members of chronically absent students could stay on cash assistance. That amendment was also struck down.
Under the legislation, teens 16 and older who don’t meet attendance requirements would be removed from their “program group” and denied cash assistance.
The Michigan League for Public Policy noted that 500,000 Michigan children live in poverty. Urging Snyder to veto the bill, MLPP President Gilda Jacobs said, “The goal of increasing school attendance is laudable; we all want students in school, learning and getting the education needed to end the cycle of poverty.” She added, “But this bill won't get kids to school. However, it is certain to push more kids deeper into poverty, making it even more difficult to get to school.”
Photo Source: Wikimedia Commons