Bill to boost school attendance will instead increase truancy and child poverty

Added March 25th, 2015 by Alicia Guevara Warren | Email This Entry Email This Entry
Alicia Guevara Warren

Everyone can probably agree that all kids should be in school and ready to learn. We also know that some families struggle more than others to make this happen, because of inconsistent work schedules, access to affordable, quality child care, and access to reliable transportation. So, if the goal is to increase school attendance, it would be logical to ease—or better yet remove—these barriers. However, that is not the route currently being considered by the state Legislature.

Last week, the House Committee on Families, Children and Seniors approved House Bill 4041 that would eliminate a family’s cash assistance if a child in the family between the ages of six and 15 was considered to be truant by their local school district. The bill would remove only the truant child from the case if he or she is 16 or older. The bill now will be considered by the full House, where the same bill passed with bipartisan support last session.

In a new brief from the League, we outline the various issues with this shortsighted logic. The biggest issue is that child poverty increases and school attendance drops if a family already living in extreme poverty loses their assistance. Additionally:

  • Every district in the state has its own attendance policy and process for defining and addressing truancy, which will lead to inequitable impact on children and families depending on where they live.
  • Even though the bill aims to reduce truancy, it does not address any of the barriers to attending school.
  • Codifying a current DHS policy will tie the hands of caseworkers by forcing them to follow the letter of the law and terminate assistance once a child is considered to be truant by their school.
  • Punishing an entire family—and driving them further into poverty—for the actions of one child is too severe and leads to problems for other children in the family.
  • The proposed law does not include a clear appeals process or way to get back on assistance after it’s been terminated.

At a time when child poverty remains high and the needs of many families remain unmet, the state should be trying to help people rather than drive them into further economic crisis. More than 70% of cash assistance recipients are children, who will undoubtedly be impacted the most by policies that blindly terminate assistance. House Bill 4041 will not increase school attendance as supporters claim, but it will push more families and kids into extreme poverty.

— Alicia Guevara Warren

 

One Response to “Bill to boost school attendance will instead increase truancy and child poverty”

  1. […] of helping these children thrive, the Legislature has pushed strict lifetime limits on FIP and created sanctions for entire families based on just one child’s absences. Fewer kids are getting help today with basic needs like food, […]

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