Each legislative session thousands of bills and amendments are introduced in the Pennsylvania Legislature. Only a fraction become law, and an even smaller portion receive wide media coverage.
These bills impact the lives of people living in Pennsylvania every day.
Each week The Sentinel will highlight one bill that has not received widespread attention.
About the bill
Failing to graduate high school is associated with a host of negative outcomes.
People who don’t make it through high school on average earn far less than those who do and even less than those who graduate college, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Dropping out of high school also makes a person three times more likely to go to jail or prison than those who graduate, according to a study conducted by Northeastern University.
State Rep. Aaron Bernstein, R-Beaver County, has introduced a bill he hopes will put pressure on low-income families to keep children in their household in school.
“While many mothers, fathers and grandparents or caretakers emphasize the importance of education and see to it that the children attend school; there are those families who do not emphasize the importance of education and are unwilling to ensure their children get to the classroom,” Bernstein wrote in a co-sponsorship letter. “A child can only receive a good education if they are in school.”
House Bill 1924 would bar people from receiving cash assistance if they live in a home with a person 16 years old or younger who does not meet the compulsory school attendance requirements.
Bernstein wrote a main goal of his bill is to help people “avoid the entrapments of poverty.”
However, his bill specifically targets low-income households.
Cash assistance is given to people who do not earn enough to support themselves or their family or if they are disabled and unable to work, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, which administers the program.
Many programs administered by the Department of Human Services, like cash assistance, have income guidelines tied to federal poverty guidelines.
The federal poverty level for a family of three is a yearly income of $20,420, according to the Department of Human Services.
Department guidelines also prohibit anyone with total resources like bank accounts, bonds or property that is not the person’s primary residence valuing more than $1,000 from receiving cash assistance.
Anyone who does not qualify for cash assistance because they earn too much money would not be subject to Bernstein’s bill.