ACLU-TN Applauds Senate Decision On Bill Tying Welfare to Children’s Academics

Affiliate: ACLU of Tennessee
April 11, 2013 3:15 pm

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ACLU of Tennessee
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NASHVILLE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee applauds the Tennessee Senate’s decision not to take action this year on the bill that would have tied the receipt of public benefits to children’s academic progress. The bill, ACLU-TN says, raised serious constitutional concerns.

In a letter earlier this week, ACLU-TN urged state senators to oppose SB 0132 (Campfield)/HB 0261 (Dennis) because it infringes on the constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection by creating a class of individuals based on their economic status and treats them differently from other Tennesseans also receiving subsidies from the government. The bill also raised concerns about due process for recipients of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits.

The legislation would have reduced Temporary Assistance to Needy Families payments to families whose children fail to make “satisfactory academic progress” by thirty percent, affecting the families of approximately 93,000 children who receive TANF benefits statewide.

The governor’s office has been urging lawmakers not to pass the bill, which would have been the first of its kind in the nation.

The following can be attributed to Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee:

ACLU-TN applauds the Senate’s thoughtful debate on the complex economic and educational issues raised by this bill, none of which are solved by denying resources to parents whose children are struggling in school. Low-income families are entitled to the same fundamental constitutional protections that all Americans enjoy, yet the poor are unfairly denied the constitutional guarantees of equal protection and due process far more frequently than others.

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