Ronald Reagan famously said that the scariest words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” Most Americans dread the day some government agents show up on their doorstep, bringing with them chaos, legal bills, false accusations—and worse, family separation.
Every citizen in Tennessee with children should be preparing for that visit because education commissioner Penny Schwinn cooked up a Child Wellbeing Task Force with plans to visit every child in Tennessee and collect data on their families. Not only is it a data-collection effort, but the “wellbeing liaison” is required to be a mandated reporter, and you know what that means…child welfare will be knocking next.
Schwinn is very proud of herself for this plot to interfere in the lives of families. “Since we know many children have experienced adversity due to the pandemic, child wellbeing checks are a deliberate way all stakeholders in the community can help ensure the needs of our children are met,” she said. “I am encouraged by the hard work and dedication of the task force and our districts to support kids and their holistic needs.”
Of course, the adversities the children are facing are 100% due to the government shutting down their schools, their social engagements, their sports, their entertainment, and their playgrounds. Leave it to the government to create a problem and then attempt to be the “holistic” solution. There’s a very simple solution to the “adversity” facing children in Tennessee: open the schools at full capacity, five days a week. If they aren’t going to do that, then sending a government nanny to tattle on parents whose kitchens are a mess and then take their kids off to foster care will only compound the trauma they inflicted in the first place.
The more than twenty-page PDF that Schwinn’s minions created is a real exercise in audacity. It must be read to be believed, but two things stood out to me as particularly egregious:
- Why are all children, ages birth through 18, included in this wellbeing check? Those who are not of school age are of no concern to the Department of Education and so should not be on their list of children to check on. What does the DOE want with newborns?
- The insane language claiming the checks will be “voluntary” and assurances that no one will be forced to take part in this rings hollow with stated procedures that make it very clear the state will not take no for an answer.
The PDF version of the plan was scrubbed from the Tennessee government’s website after the backlash began. PJ Media obtained a copy, which you can view below.
“It’s a horrendous overreach by government,” Republican Rep. Bruce Griffey told PJ Media. “I’m at a loss that Republicans are promoting a nanny state,” he said. “It’s crazy. Normally I’d see something like this from the Chinese government or Google collecting this kind of data on you and it’s just crazy.”
Griffey and his fellow state legislators are getting hit hard by constituents who are not pleased at being notified that the Fourth Amendment no longer applies to them. “My email is blowing up today and I haven’t responded yet because I’ve been in touch with fellow legislators who are working through it with the Department of Education and I’m hoping to get answers soon.”
The massive power exercised by governors throughout the coronavirus emergency is leaking into other issues that should be going through the legislature. But once governors get a taste of governing by fiat, they don’t want to give it up. “If Governor [Bill] Lee was consulted on this and did not come to the Speaker or the chair of the Education committee, then I am very disappointed,” said Griffey.
Lee ran as a Republican, but after the election, immediately began pushing through a host of Democrat wish-list items.
It appears Lee actually instigated this “wellbeing” idea. The very first sentence of the document reads, “Tennessee Governor Bill Lee tasked Education Commissioner Dr. Penny Schwinn to establish the Child Wellbeing Task Force (Task Force) with the goal of ensuring that the needs of Tennessee children are met during and after extended periods away from school, and to empower local communities to meaningfully engage in ways that support child wellbeing.”
“We were in the legislative session for the last three days, why didn’t he consult with the Speaker or the House Education committee?” asked Griffey. “They sprung this on us the next to last day of the legislative session. There wasn’t time to drill down and focus on this issue, but it’s my understanding that they are working through some of the issues today which is why [the document] may have been taken down.”
PJ Media also reached out to the Tennessee Department of Education but received no reply at the time of publishing. If they do respond, we will update.