LG, a longtime reader, wrote a letter to Senator Stacey Campfield (R) in Tennessee, who sponsored the legislation to cut the welfare benefits of poor families by as much as 30% if their children don’t raise their test scores. The legislation is inherently discriminatory, she writes, because it singles out poor families for punishment.

This raises interesting questions. How about increasing taxes on wealthy families whose children don’t raise their test scores? Senator Campfield would get way more letters from them! And people would begin asking who made the tests so important. And whether they should be used to mete out punishments and rewards. That would be a boon for the anti-testing movement.

LG writes:

Dear Senator Campfield,

Thank you for your reply.

This is a radical solution for a very important issue. How can anyone reconcile this same targeting strategy for middle and higher income families whose children are in the same academic position?

What is proposed in this bill is discriminatory in that it does not solve academic performance issues by making some rules for some of the people to follow while leaving the others to continually fail in schools. Where is the incentive for middle or upper level income families?

A large concern is for the children at lower income levels who have not yet been identified as having learning disabilities. As you said, no system is 100% perfect, including child study services. Some children may not be identified as learning disabled for years–should their families be punished by this?

I would think a better bill would target the inequality in our economic infrastructure. Apply more oversight to the assistance programs to help people get out of situations of poverty. Provide opportunities for employment, and offer health care for families who struggle. Stop discriminating against the poor and provide solutions to aid in their upward mobility.

If this is about holding parents accountable, why hasn’t this bill been piggy-backed with parental accountability for all income levels? To make any solution about money on all levels is also flawed because people with access to money may try to “buy” results or intimidate those reporting grades. The poor do not have the luxury of “buying” their way out of anything. What your bill proposes is segregating the population into haves and have-nots and then creating different rules for the have-nots. This solves nothing in the way of making positive changes in academic progress.

Instead, hold parents accountable for communicating with schools or attending parent sessions by other means. If a parent is abusive toward a child, there are laws protecting the child. It is difficult to prove if a parent is uninterested in the academic well-being of a child, but perhaps there could be requirements for ALL parents of academically-struggling children by law that do not involve financial burdens.

This bill is anti-American, and should not be pursued. As a public servant, it is your responsibility to find another way to reach these students. Singling out low income families is discrimination, no matter how good the intentions behind the act.