Republicans insisted they aren’t just having a little mean-spirited fun messing with poor people but actually are trying to instill parental responsibility in slackers on welfare.
“We’re putting the burden squarely on the shoulders of the parents to try to help their children succeed,” said Rep. Barrett Rich, R-Somerville.
Under the bill, welfare recipients could delay losing benefits if they attend a couple of parent-teacher conferences or go to parenting class for eight hours. But Democrats said that’s a lot to ask of single mothers working a couple of jobs to make ends meet in the housing projects.
“I’ve worked as a firefighter in some of the roughest neighborhoods in Nashville, and most of these people are single moms. Most of them are trying to do the best they can,” Rep. Mike Turner, D-Nashville, said. “Some of them are gaming the system, but there are corporate millionaires doing the same thing. Say you’ve got a lady who’s got three kids at home. She’s got a 14 year old who’s joined a gang and she can’t control him and there’s nothing she can do about it. He’s bigger than her. This bill wouldn’t work in that situation."
Kathy Walsh of the Tennessee Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence said children would go hungry if this bill becomes law. She said some parents who lose benefits might take it out on their kids at home.
“The parent is going to start blaming that child for the money not coming in,” Walsh said. “They’re going to focus that anger on the child. They’re going to say, ‘If you were just doing better in school, I wouldn’t have to go to these classes.’ We have to be so careful when we’re talking about children and maybe unintended consequences.”
Rep. Barry Doss, R-Leoma, said it was OK with him if children go hungry for a little while if it makes them buckle down with those books.
"I am more concerned about the child starving for a lifetime than I am for a few days because if these children don’t get an education and the parents are not going to be responsible, then they are going to be burdened for a lifetime," he said.