Politics & Government
11:13 am
Thu December 5, 2013

Truant kids could put family aid in jeopardy

Credit Ladyheart / MorgueFile

Last year, Governor Snyder said parents who don't get their kids to school should have their state financial aid suspended.

A child who has ten or more unexcused absences in a school year is considered truant.

The state House passed a truancy bill in May;  it's now in the Senate.

State Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield, says the bill punishes poor families, rather than looking for solutions.

"Well, we're going to take away public assistance for the family," Gregory says. "What does that do to help the family, and what does that do to address the problem of the child?

If the child is truant, there's a reason. It could be bullying. It could be because a child feels embarrassed to go to school because they don't have proper clothing. Maybe there are drugs or other issues in the family. Address those issues."

But Department of Human Services spokesman Dave Akerly says that's not what the bill is about. He says the agency already tries to solve transportation, clothing and other issues.

Akerly says sometimes the remedy can be something as simple as providing an alarm clock. However, he says the responsibility for making sure children attend school ultimately falls on parents.

According to Akerly, about 120 families with a truant child lost their Family Independence Program benefits so far this year,  out of some 45,000 families enrolled.

Correction: We erroneously reported that the truancy bill has moved to the full state Senate.  The  vote on House Bill 4388 was 2-1, but three votes were required to move the bill from the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services committee. We regret the error.

However, this measure simply codifies existing law. Families with truant children are still subject to losing aid from the Family Independence Program.