School Attendance to Affect Welfare Benefits

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

Skipping class is about to start hurting more than just students and their grades. It's going to start costing their families.

"Truancy is an issue, it has been for ever since I can remember being a student at school," said Victoria Burke, Jackson County's Attendance Officer of 18 years.

As part of Governor Snyder's crackdown on attendance in schools and public safety, the State Department of Human Services is implenting a new policy beginning October 1 that will effect families using cash assistance.

"High truancy rates, we're talking about higher crime rates, a less of a chance of succeeding in life, and we're trying to change that equation," DHS spokesperon David Akerly said.

Under the new policy, children ages 6-15 must attend school full time or their family will become ineligible for benefits. It's an extension of a previous policy that only included students ages 16-18.

"Cash benefits in Michigan are for children, dependent children," Akerly said. "Part of that process of being a parent is being responsible for them going to school, if you're going to be getting these benefits, for their benefit, you also need to make sure that they're going to class."

If a parent is applying or reapplying for assistance, they'll need to prove a child's enrollment and attendance. Akerly said that's usually as simple as a signed piece of paper from the district.

For most districts, "truant" means 10 unexcused absences. If a student is truant, Akerly said benefits will be suspened, but they can be reinstated.

"You'll come back in, and you will show that your child or children is back in class for 21 calendar days," Akerly said. "When you can do that from the district, from the school, we'll put you back on, and your benefit suspension will end."

Burke said her goal is just to get truancy levels down. She had almost 400 cases last year.

"The more we can support students being in school, the greater the opportunity is for them to be successful," Burke said.

Akerly said the policy is not retroactive. Any truancy problem in the past won't even be looked at.

The policy begins just two days before Michigan's count day in schools.


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  • by Ricardo Location: Lansig on Sep 28, 2012 at 08:48 AM
    This won't really fix anything. If you try and force kids to attend class, and they really don't want to be there, all they will do is keep a seat warm and cause problems for the other kids that are there to learn. Thank You. Ricardo
  • by Bob Location: Laingsburg on Sep 28, 2012 at 05:36 AM
    Truancy is a problem that affects everyone. Parents need to step up and take responsibility. Making sure your children attend school is part of it. Other things can be done but this is a step in the right direction.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 28, 2012 at 04:00 AM
    He hit the nail on the head… “Part of the process of being a parent is being responsible for them going to school”. Parents, you need to step up and be parents. Yes it’s a big job, but you signed up for it. If you do a bad job, ultimately the child will suffer the rest of their lives.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 27, 2012 at 09:32 AM
    This won't last long. Federal visitors to DHS have already told them they cannot set a condition like this on receipt of TANF, the federal funding that pays for the welfare program. This will result in another lawsuit and the state will end up repaying any benefits denied.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 26, 2012 at 07:49 AM
    WHAT?.....Nice work Snyder, lets give kids another tool to use against their parents. If you are trying to reduce the walfare payments, try making those on it take drug tests in order to qualify. They say a bunch of people have quit looking.....that is a crock. They don't look because they know they can't pass a pre-employment drug screen. After a year on unemployment...think about making it mandatory to re-train in a new field. It may cost more up front, but the long term will see the benefit. Maybe we can use some of that money for the "free bridge" to help pay for the re-training or the drug tests. What sort of penelties will there be if a kid from a middle (one not getting assistance) or upper class skips school? Are you going to tax them extra. This is about the most rediculous thing I have ever heard of.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 26, 2012 at 05:44 AM
    So we should punish poor people by taking away their benefits instead of trying to actually figure out the root causes of truancy and treating those instead? So what about the rich kids whose parents don't get welfare but still have truant children? Oh, I'm sure that they never skip school and are perfect angels. Only poor people have bad kids.
  • by Lorena Conlin Location: Lansing on Sep 25, 2012 at 05:23 PM
    I am concerned about this issue of truancy with high school students. My daughter is a ninth grader at Eastern High School. School has been in session since Sept. 4, The school computer system has called me every school night since the 10th telling me that my daughter has unexcused absences in one or more classes. I have complained to the school, I have contacted the Board of Education and left message for the truancy officer to contact me as I do not want to wait to find out that this is a serious issue. I am concerned that if this system is screwed up how many other parents are experiencing this same issue. I am not over this system calling every night for the past 12 and it did happen again this evening. thank you for taking the time to read this and if you can assist in finding out how long it takes to fix a computer system. thanks Lorena
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