The potential consequences of a Michigan law that punishes families if their children miss too many days of school are all too real for a family that was cut off from assistance because their daughter's brain cancer prevented her from attending school.
A 12-year girl whom The Daily Beast refers to as "Lisa" was disabled by seizures and strokes resulting from brain-surgery, but the state Department of Health Services(!) couldn't give less of a shit.
Michigan kicked Martha, Lisa, and her two siblings off welfare. Thanks to a policy created by the department’s Republican-appointed director, the state can cut off households if their children are truant. The state Department of Health Services said 350 households have had assistance eliminated or reduced since 2012 as part of Michigan’s attempt to force welfare recipients to send their kids to class.
“Our top priority is to keep kids in schools, and we want to use whatever tools we can to incentivize children to stay in school,” DHS spokesman Bob Wheaton told The Daily Beast.
If your reaction to this was similar to mine, you would have asked why the Department of Health Services is in the business of kicking children with brain cancer (or anyone else for that matter) off public assistance. In my case, that question came just after I muttered "what the fuck" to myself a dozen times.
It gets better, of course.
When asked how effective this policy of cutting parents off welfare was in getting children to go back to school, Wheaton said the department doesn’t really know.
“That’s not anything we’re able to track because they’ve stopped receiving public assistance,” Wheaton said, adding the department has the “ability, in some cases, to manually cross-reference new-applicant [data] and current-recipient data.”
As terrible as this story is, I could not help but laugh my ass off at the purified, distilled incompetence.
This is not unlike Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's job creation program that had absolutely no mechanism for tracking how many jobs it created, but in this case the consequences are far more severe and inhumane.
This policy began as a pet project of the state Department of Health Services director in 2012 but, as you may recall, the state legislature officially codified the policy into law just two months ago in May.
This is Republican government. It's heinous, incompetent, and cruel.
Lisa died as a result of her cancer.