Public Assistance Families With Children

By Alvin Mason

I encourage all legislators, School Board Members, Superintendents, Mayors, and others with education responsibilities in their job description to read this. Public Assistance comes in many forms. Some programs are for the elderly and there are programs for other targeted groups. This paper focuses on public assistance programs that assist families with children.

One of the classic debates between Liberals and Conservatives is Public Assistance. There is a perception that the right is insensitive to the less fortunate. There is a perception that the left wants to throw money away without holding people accountable.

Public Assistance as well as every other program can stand some tinkering to improve the results. One example of a change that had some positive results was with housing. After World War II, the Federal Government built many public housing communities. The rationale for building affordable housing was commendable. However the problems caused by what many referred to as “the projects” were many and serious. Today many people in need of affordable housing use Section 8 and other programs that mix the needy with the middle class. Two positive aspects of the change from “Projects” to “Mixed Income Communities” are the reduction in open air drug markets and a reduction in neighborhood gangs. Changing Public Assistance does not have to be a bad thing. However any changes including cuts should bring improvement to Public Assistance.

The topic of Public Assistance comes to the forefront of political debates during the budget season. Many times the nexus of the disagreement is cuts to public assistance. This writing is an attempt to bridge the ideology differences. The following should be considered during a time of budget cuts.

First, we should understand that public assistance to families with children is to assist the parents or guardians to be effective in their parental duties. Such necessities as housing, food, and financial subsistence should help adults nurture the children under their care.

When children who are raised with the help of public assistance become adults, the goal is, the beneficiaries will become contributing adults to society. There are many great stories of children raised on what was then called welfare becoming successful in today’s society. Unfortunately there are too many instances where the goal of assisting parents raise their children to be positive contributors to society was not reached.

When planning cuts to public assistance funding, the decision makers should look further than across the board cuts. You don’t have to look any further than the children’s behavior and achievement in school.

When a child whose caretaker is on public assistance, is well behaved in school and progressing academically, why would you stop the assistance? However, a family receiving public assistance whose children disrupt class and don’t achieve should be where the scrutiny begins.

First warning parents that their children’s behavior and academic progress is unacceptable should make the adults pay more attention to parenting. This concept would also give teachers more latitude to get cooperation from adults. Right now teachers are under attack for situations they cannot improve. I recommend that before a family’s public assistance is cut that authorities look at the children’s grades. I would suggest that teacher recommendations be given equal weight as test scores since some people don’t test well.

I advocate a parent on public assistance who doesn’t work and whose child is disruptive in class be made to sit is the classroom with their child. If they have younger children, then they just have to bring them to school with them. The schools could have a rotating daycare to accommodate parents who are required to sit in class.

It is foreseeable that this policy could lead to abusive behavior as the parent reacts to the prospect of being kicked off public assistance. However, I ask that consideration be given to the children striving to learn and the parents working hard to get their children educated. The environment in many classrooms needs to improve so that learning can take place.

The situations where a child’s issues are beyond this simple remedy, are where special schools with social and psychiatric experts are necessary.

The failure to require adults to raise their children is one of the primary reasons that Charter Schools have become a primary alternative to less desirable neighborhood schools.

Effective use of public assistance funding should lessen the need for funding for corrections. Where would you rather put the taxpayers’ dollars, in programs to help people become self-sufficient or in public and private incarceration?

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