Girl follows lawmaker around Tennessee Capitol in protest of welfare bill

Mike Krumboltz
The Lookout

An 8-year-old followed Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield around the Tennessee state Capitol in an effort to convince the lawmaker to drop a bill that would link children's academic performance to a family’s welfare benefits.

The Tennessean reports that Aamira Fetuga, 8, confronted Campfield while he was on his way to vote. She presented Campfield with a petition signed by people opposed to his bill. Approximately 60 other protestors were also in attendance.

The child asked, "Why do you want to cut benefits for people?” while on a Capitol escalator. Campfield responded that "as long as the parent shows up to school and goes to two parent-teacher conferences ... they're exempt." News cameras followed as the girl continued to ask questions. Campfield was heard to say, "I love it when people use children as props."

The lawmaker did end up withdrawing the bill, which was on shaky ground already. On the Senate floor, he asked to have the bill examined by a committee over the summer. The Tennessean reports that Campfield's move spared him "from potential defeat and some of his fellow Republicans from casting politically dicey votes."

The bill would have cut up to 30 percent of assistance to needy families whose children fail a grade in school unless the parents attended an eight-hour parenting class, met twice with teachers, enrolled the student in summer school or arranged for the child to receive tutoring.

Campfield had argued that the bill's aim was to inspire parents to play a larger role in the education of their children, but opponents argued that the bill would have added yet another burden to families with financial difficulties. "The Daily Show's" Jon Stewart joked that Campfield was apparently trying to “turn Tennessee education into the actual 'Hunger Games.' "

Campfield told reporters that the bill's withdraw doesn't mean it is dead. "This may be a slight detour, but honestly I think this could hopefully make it even better."