Some words on Chairman Brown's push to penalize uninvolved parents


Two days ago, Lisa Gartner of the Examiner wrote, "D.C. Council Chairman Kwame Brown is planning to introduce legislation that would force low-income parents receiving financial assistance from the city to attend their children's parent-teacher conferences and PTA meetings.

Brown's bill aims to increase parents' involvement in their children's education, a step he and other city leaders say is necessary to reap the promised benefits of school reforms, by cutting all federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program benefits to families who miss parent-teacher conferences or more than two PTA meetings without a doctor's note or other documented excuse.

Parents of charter-school students would not only lose their TANF benefits, but also the right to send their children to charter schools."

The rest can be read by following this link: Brown moves to penalize uninvolved parents.

On surface level, it can be believed that the Chairman wants to involve parents and families in a meaningful way. What isn't beneficial about that? But, the question must be asked, why low-income families? To many, it would seem that Mr. Brown is trying to alleviate the curse of the low-performing schools where parents are uninvolved, and if this were the case, it would be a very noble effort.

However, did Mr. Brown actually go to parents who qualified for TANF and actually ask them what they need and/or want in order to be more involved in their  child's (children's) education? Or is this simply a new mandate that the poorest of the poor have to fulfill? 

Let us imagine that we were a single mother of 4, on TANF, would we really have time to go to PTA meetings and then walk home in the dark in a neighborhood that we are not always comfortable venturing out in day light? Or perhaps we would find the PTA unrelated and filled with broken promises and not consider it worth the time? Perhaps there are other events, such as tutoring programs, church, or sports events? Being a single parent makes being in multiple places at the same time extremely difficult. And those that are should be applauded!

But let us say that there are two parents, shouldn't they have more time? Sure. But, if they are on TANF  doesn't that mean that they are working very low-paying jobs or are unemployed? Perhaps, then, they are having inner struggles and while working to better their families lives they do not have time other items.

Now, this is of course hypothetical, but it is an attempt to understand why it is that low-income parents do not have the best attendance rates. It may be true that some cheat the system, but that should not be enough to apply stereotypical assumptions (i.e. poor parents are uninvolved in and do not care about their children's education) to those who do not get paid $100,000 + a year and drive luxury SUV's.

We have attempted to understand. We hope the Chairman does the same.


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