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After 8-year-old girl protests, Tennessee senator drops bill that links welfare to grades

A Tennessee state senator dropped an effort to link welfare to the children's grades after an 8-year-old girl confronted him with a petition -- and a choir -- opposing the bill.

Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield’s proposal, officially called the "Education to End Poverty Act," was nicknamed the "Starve the Children" bill by opponents and was widely criticized in national and local media.

The bill would have reduced temporary assistance to needy families of children who fail a grade, unless they go through a series of corrective actions, including taking a parenting class, meeting with teachers and enrolling a child in summer school or getting them a tutor.

The girl, Aamira Fetuga, confronted Campfield in a Legislature hallway before Thursday’s session. She carried a petition with some 2,500 signatures and was accompanied by a choir of some 60 people who sang “Jesus Loves the Little Children,” according to the Tennessean.

Campfield reportedly walked away from the girl and the assembled opponents.

“How are you? Thanks for coming,” Campfield told the girl, the Tennessean reported. “I love it when people use children as props.”

Afterward, on the Senate floor, instead of a vote he moved to have the bill sent to a committee for more study.

For his part, Campfield didn’t admit the girl’s lobbying had anything to do with the delay of the bill.

“I got a lot of good feedback from people,” he said, saying some senators were close to supporting the measure but wanted more information.

Supporters of the measure say the purpose was to spur parents to get involved in their children’s education. Opponents charged it is burden on already-struggling families.

Campfield made headlines earlier this year when he was lampooned by comedian Stephen Colbert for spearheading legislation dubbed "Don't Say Gay."