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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Belle-Miller


Updated: May 23, 2018

There always seems to be a lot of scrutiny surrounding welfare benefits. Lately in the news there has been discussion about limiting what individuals can buy with their food stamps, i.e. soda, sugary snacks, etc., and even more recently, discussion surrounding preventing welfare recipients from buying lottery tickets, which many view as a luxury item, instead of a necessity. At least one state has decided not to limit what welfare recipients can purchase.The North Carolina House of Representatives recently said a new lottery bill will not seek to prohibit ticket sales to individuals receiving public assistance.

Now, a Republican lawmaker in Tennessee has introduced a bill that would tie welfare benefits ( TANF – Temporary Assistance to Needy Families- to be more specific) to the grades a recipients’ children receive. This proposal brings many questions to mind. Is this fair? How will children’s performance be measured? Should a family go without benefits, because the child does poorly in school?

There is no doubt a child’s home environment affects his or her academic performance. A child with actively engaged parents, a stable home life, and guaranteed necessities (food, shelter, clothing, etc.) is likely to perform better in school, compared to a child who has an unstable home life, parents who are not involved, and a lack of certainty about where his or her next meal is going to come from. How can a child focus in school when he/she is hungry and/or anxious about his/her home life?

So while I would argue parent engagement is critical and yes, parents need to work hard to ensure their children are succeeding academically, I don’t know if tying grades to welfare benefits is the best way to achieve the academic success the state of Tennessee is seeking. It may actually have the opposite effect. If a child does poorly in school and the family stops receiving benefits, the child’s performance may decline even more due to the hardships he or she is experiencing at home. I also see this causing some parents to crack down even harder on their children–to the point of being unrealistic about their child’s actual ability–to ensure they receive their benefits.

What do you think? Should welfare benefits be tied to children’s grades? Will this tactic be effective or just cause further problems?

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