U program helps poor

Although the Minnesota Family Investment Program has successfully removed many individuals from welfare since its beginning in 1997, its failure to promote education contrasts starkly with the perceived benefits of fewer welfare cases. District Judge Louise Dovre Bjorkman’s ruling last week upheld a University program linking remedial classes at the General College to overcoming welfare dependency. Hopefully, her decision will persuade the Minnesota Department of Human Services, which oversees the state’s welfare programs, to make education a higher priority.
Minnesota’s welfare program actually allows up to 24 months of education while an individual is receiving state funds. Chuck Johnson, director of human services, and Holly Ingersoll, who heads the University’s Student Parent Investment Program, disagree about whether the program extends beyond the time limit. After students successfully finish the first two years of job skills and liberal arts classes, they are given full-time civil service jobs at the University as they finish their degree. The students would continue to receive welfare and day-care benefits, but in accordance with state rules requiring individuals to work 30 hours a week.
Although some mothers and fathers have the energy and wherewithal to work 30 or more hours per week, attend college full time and rarely see their children, many others find these tasks daunting when done simultaneously. All Americans — both poor and wealthy — deserve the opportunity to seek their own destiny. When those on welfare are forced to go straight to work without being allowed an education, chances are they will never emerge from their low-income bracket, thus excluding a large swath of Minnesotans from our state’s recent prosperity.