The scion of a political family long known in Michigan based a legislative proposal in the Mitten State whereby adults may jeapordize their welfare benefits should their children regularly absent themselves from school. Sen. Coleman Young II, D-Detroit – the son of former mayor Coleman Young - proposed an amendment to a measure passed in the Michigan senate on May 9 that would prevent the state from cutting off cash assistance near the end of the school year. He argued that by doing so, the state would deprive the families in question from an opportunity to apply for reinstatement over the summer. "This is not about helping poor people. This is about kicking people while they're down," Young said, adding, "It's wrong. It's disgusting. It needs to stop." His amendment failed.
The legislation in question was introduced by Senator Judy Emmons, a Republican representing Sheridan – a small rural village located near the center of Michigan’s lower peninsula. The so-called "parental responsibility act," would allow Michigan to sever Family Independence Program assistance to families with chronically truant children. "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 Emmons on the floor of the Michigan senate. If signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder – a Republican – the bill would mean that families with truant children under the age of 16 would lose cash benefits. In the case of children 16 or older, they would be removed from the family, which would still receive benefits.
The bill passed the Republican-controlled Senate in a 26-12 vote. Emmons said her bill would give the Department of Health and Human Services the authority to end cash assistance as a last resort. "Were giving the department the flexibility to work with the family to make sure they understand their children need to be in school," she said. For its part, DHS had already implemented a similar truancy program. In 2014, 189 families or individuals were sanctioned for missing school.
Approximately 500,000 children in Michigan currently live in families at or below the poverty line. The Michigan League for Public Policy has urged Gov. Snyder – a moderate pro-business Republican – to veto the bill. In a statement, 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."
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