Senate: Strip welfare from families of truant students

Detroit News staff and wire

Lansing — A policy of stripping welfare benefits from families if kids under age 16 miss too much school would become law under legislation nearing approval in the Michigan Legislature.

The Republican-led Senate voted 26-12 Tuesday for the bill codifying existing practice. It earlier won approval in the House, which is expected to quickly OK Senate changes and send the legislation to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.

Republicans say the goal is to keep children in school, while Democrats say it’s unfair to punish an entire family for one child’s chronic absence from school.

Democratic Sens. Coleman Young II of Detroit and Bert Johnson of Highland Park offered amendments that would have watered down the cutting off of cash aid, but the changes were overwhelmingly defeated.

Under the legislation, a teen 16 or older who doesn’t meet school attendance requirements would be removed from their “program group” and denied cash assistance.

Supporters including Sen. Judy Emmons, R-Sheridan, argued the legislation gives social workers the flexibility to pursue the stoppage of cash aid as a last resort and encourages families to ensure kids go to school so they have a better shot of escaping poverty.