Michigan families to lose welfare benefits for too much truancy - KMSP-TV

Michigan families to lose welfare benefits for too much truancy

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Maureen Taylor with the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization does not support the new policy.  (Credit: WJBK) Maureen Taylor with the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization does not support the new policy. (Credit: WJBK)
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SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WJBK) -

The State of Michigan is laying down some new rules when it comes to welfare. If you're a parent of school age children, they better attend class regularly or you risk losing your benefits.

Some of the people targeted by this new plan say it's just not that simple. There are a lot of reasons why kids can't make it to school and taking away the entire family's state aid they feel is not the answer.

"I think it's very unfair, and I think it's very stupid. I mean, it doesn't make sense," said Ebony Boost, who has three children and is currently on welfare.

She just learned about the state's new policy that will take effect October 1. If your child is truant missing more than ten days of school, your family's welfare cash benefits will be cut off.

"Maybe they have household problems, the parents. There might be something going on in the home, but I think they just need to investigate that further," Boost remarked.

The Michigan Department of Human Services is keeping tabs on kids ages six to 15 years old who will now have to prove they attended school. Threatening to take away state aid is expected to make parents more responsible.

"Our whole goal is that we're going to increase academic success for children," said Sheryl Thompson with the Department of Human Services. "We're going to have higher graduation rates because the most important thing with this also is that we want to end generational poverty and it starts by increasing our educational values."

Detroit Public Schools has one of the largest truancy rates in the state. Critics of the new crackdown don't see the connection.

"It's not always as simple as saying your the mother, send them to school," said Theresa Williams, a mother of four that receives state aid. "If it was that simple, it would be done. We wouldn't even be at this stage of them talking about that. So, it's not always that simple. You don't know what's going on inside a home unless you're there."

Maureen Taylor, head of the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, believes the plan unfairly targets low income families since they are not the only ones who aren't going to school.

"What kind of plan is this? Let's punish everybody. Because this kid may have missed some days of school, maybe we should find out why that kid missed school," she said. "I like motivation, but the motivation here is to take away breakfast, lunch and dinner."

The policy change takes effect two days before Michigan's fall count day when attendance is used to determine the funding a school district gets from the state. There are plenty in favor of the new plan like Ryan Battle, who said there is no excuse why a parent shouldn't be sending their kid to school.

"It matters. I mean, if you're not going to school, if you're not doing what you're supposed to do with your kids, then how is the future going to work? You can't raise new presidents if you don't go to school," he said.

Thompson said the state does plan to work with families and they can get their benefits back if the state gets verification that the student has been back in school for 21 consecutive calendar days.

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