I was listening to the radio the other day and a shocking story was mentioned. A senator in Tennessee is proposing that parent’s welfare is cut if their student is failing classes. What? Did I hear that right? Parents could lose government funding if their student fails? I think I about drove off the road.
My head reeling as so many thoughts went through my head. I teach at a high poverty school (over 85% free and reduced lunch) so if this were true in Michigan, it could affect a lot of students. That was my first thought anyway. Then I thought, good! If I can’t motivate them then maybe their parents could. Maybe this would be the catalyst to succeed. But is this really fair? Is it really fair to punish the parent for the student’s lack of achievement? If there is one thing 8 years at my school has taught me, it’s that you can’t just go pointing fingers. Things are not always what they seem. It is hardly fair to blame the parent as it is to blame the student or the parent. There are many sides to every story.
Here is another thing to think about. What about the parents NOT on welfare who have students who fail? So as a society, are we just punishing those receiving government aid? How is that going to help anyone?
I did a little search about laws in my own state when writing this and I found out something surprising. Apparently Michigan, and other states, already have existing laws that will reduce a family’s welfare aid for truancy. Seriously!? I had no idea. Truancy is an issue in my school. In fact, most of the students who don’t pass my classes have multiple absences. Some of these parents, I have had conversations with. While some of them drag their kids out of bed and force them to go to school, some of them are at a loss as to what to do. They have tried all of that and more to no avail. Their student has run off, or disappeared. The police can’t seem to get them to stay at home long enough to go to school. These parents care about their kids and don’t want to see them fail but between raising other children and trying to make ends meet, they just don’t know what to do. How is that fair?
This story really made me think. Who is responsible for a child’s education? In the 90s, the Clinton administration introduced the whole “it takes a village” notion. If this is true, the the law the senator is proposing a ridiculous punishment for only part of the problem. There are many that believe it is the teacher and the administration. In fact, Michigan has worked student achievement into their teacher evaluations. The bottom line, if my students aren’t succeeding on state assessments, it could go against me. But, where does the student fall in all of this? Others argue (including teachers!) that the student has to want to learn. In fact in high school, shouldn’t students want to succeed? Shouldn’t they want to come to school and be motivated? In theory, should we all work together. Unfortunately, someone always wants to point a finger whenever a student fails. Of course, that doesn’t really help anyone in the long run. As the saying goes, when you point a finger, you always have three fingers pointing back at you! Perhaps the answer is to stop pointing fingers and to start coming up with solutions. How do we get students to want to come to school? Once at school, how do we get them to want to succeed?I am not sure what the answer is in all of this. In fact, I still don’t know where I stand. I do know one thing, we all need to remember that the ultimate goal is to give our students the best education they deserve regardless of what life is like at home.
I would love to hear what everyone else thinks. Does your state have any laws like this?
If you want to read more, see the article links below.