As we kick off the school year, folks in the state of Michigan will have to deal with another example of a draconian law passed by a Republican majority. This time, it was the Republican-majority Michigan House and Senate, and their Republican governor, Rick Snyder.
This past spring, the state passed a law, formally called House Bill 4388, that ties welfare assistance to school attendance for families with school-aged children between the ages of 6 and 15. There was already a similar policy in place for just kids 16 to 18 years old. So essentially, all school-aged children are now included.
Specifically, the law would make families of children who miss 10 or more days of school ineligible for the state’s Family Independence Program, which provides an average of$400 a month to needy families in the state.
This bill was tied with another Republican-sponsored bill (House bill 4118) that requires drug testing of welfare recipients who are suspected of doing drugs. If they fail the test, they lose the benefits from the Family Independence Program.
So here we have a double-dose of laws aimed at ostracizing poor people. There are several reasons why kids may have to miss school. They could have a contagious illness, be involved in an accident, their means of transportation to school could be disabled, and a whole host of other reasons. Why punish a financially struggling family even more, and box them further into a corner, by implementing a bill that ties school attendance to welfare?
And what about families who do not qualify for welfare, but who have children that miss 10 or more days of school? Why are they not punished financially?
Basically, this law is saying that if you are poor, it’s all your fault and due to your own personal choices. There are more reasons why families are poor than could fit into this article, but suffice to say that just because a family is poor and receives welfare does not mean that they are too irresponsible to send their children to school.
And it is a very distinct possibility that this law is motivated by federal dollars funding public schools being tied to school attendance.