Missouri Lawmaker: No Welfare If Your Kid Gets Mono or Depression

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Missouri Rep. Steve Cookson, a Republican, caused a stir last year when he offered a bill to ban any discussion of sexual orientation in public schools outside of traditional sex ed and science instruction. That meant teachers couldn’t talk about gay and lesbian issues during class, and gay-straight alliances couldn’t meet during the school day. Critics called it the “don’t say gay” bill. It died in committee.

Now, Cookson is back in the news for introducing another controversial bill. Children of welfare recipients can’t miss more than 10 percent of their classes—roughly three weeks of school—or their family loses welfare benefits. The bill, which would amend the state’s welfare statute, is a single sentence long:

School age children of welfare recipients must attend public school, unless physically disabled, at least ninety percent of the time in order to receive benefits.

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who thinks it’s OK to skip three weeks’ worth class during the school year. But what about an unexpected illness like mono or clinical depression? Cookson has yet to clarify what exactly qualifies for the “physically disabled” exemption in his bill. And so unless mono qualifies as a physical disability, the critics who deride Cookson’s bill the “don’t get sick” bill make a fair point. A entire family could lose its state assistance if their kid got mono from a classmate.

As the Kansas City Star notes, state Republicans, which control the Missouri General Assembly, recently named Cookson the chair of the House education committee. That means his “don’t get sick” bill could get a full airing on the House floor.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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