Stupid Thing of the Week: CHA's dumb new rule

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Sorry, we forgot to present a “Stupid Thing of the Week” last week; something about being too excited about July 4 fireworks I guess. Not to worry, though, we have a doozy this week.

On Wednesday, the Charlotte Housing Authority announced a new rule. Announcing new rules is one of the CHA’s favorite things to do, and it’s easy, too, considering that their clients are usually people with little power to disagree with them. The new rule is that CHA will now evict public housing residents if their children skip school 10 times or more during a school year.

Before going any farther, let me emphasize that I believe parents should do their utmost to help their children become educated, including making sure they’re in school and helping them with their studies. In fact, it’s one of the things I feel most strongly about; however, to put it in the simplest terms possible, if a parent doesn’t, or cannot, do that, it’s bad — tragic, actually — but it is none of the Housing Authority’s damned business, even if the agency is “working with” CMS. This ill-conceived policy is yet another in a long, long list of government actions that sound good, that push the right PR buttons, but are potentially disastrous.

“The children of our community cannot be educated if they're not in school,” declared Barbara Pellin, the assistant CMS superintendent who worked with CHA on this new policy. And who could deny that what she says is true? It’s also true, however, that the children of our community cannot sleep in a decent bed if CHA deliberately makes them homeless. County Commission Chair Jennifer Roberts summed up the problem with the new policy best when she told the Observer, “I know how teenagers are very hard, even if you have very engaged parents. It's hard to have the family punished for the acts of a minor.”

This policy — although it may sound good at first, and the people who proposed it are well-meaning — is a terrible idea that could give families who are already in trouble even worse problems to endure, and smacks of government authorities pushing around those who are powerless and dependent on them.

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