18. What are the school requirements for children ("Learnfare")?

Unless you are disabled, your school age children under age 16 who are on the TAFDC grant must meet DTA’s school attendance requirements. If a child has too many unexcused absences, you will lose that child’s portion of the grant. This is called “Learnfare.” 106 C.M.R. § 703.180; Appendix E (DTA Online Guide) 
You will be put on TAFDC “probation” if your child had more than eight unexcused absences during the previous school quarter. A quarter is 45 school days.
  •  During probation, you have to submit a monthly report with your child’s school attendance for the previous month.
  •  If you do not submit the report on time, DTA will close your case. This may not be legal. 
  •  If the child has more than three unexcused absences during any month in the probation period, you will lose the child’s share of the grant for that month.
  •  Probation continues for six months in a row or until the child has no more than ten unexcused absences in the previous six months, whichever is longer. See Appendix E (DTA Online Guide)

Advocacy Reminders

  • Learnfare does not apply to your child if you are disabled. For disability, see Question 37.
  • Learnfare does not apply to children who are not on the grant because they get SSI benefits, or because of their noncitizen status.
  • Is your child missing school because of a learning disability or other disability? You can get the absence marked as “excused.” See Question 19. You can also ask for a disability accommodation. See Questions 24-27.
  • Is your child in a private, parochial, or home-school program? DTA may ask you to verify your child's school and may close your case if you don't respond. This may not be legal. For help, contact your local legal services program. See Appendix D
  • It may not be lawful for DTA to close your case if it doesn’t get the monthly probationary report on time. For help, contact your local legal services program.
  • DTA cannot terminate the family grant even if the only child on the grant is under a Learnfare sanction. DTA Transitions, Aug. 2004, p. 3.
  • DTA may consider any child age 6 or older to be subject to the Learnfare requirement. See Appendix E (DTA Online Guide) DTA should not consider a six-year-old child to be school age if the child has not yet started school and will still be six next September when school starts.
  • DTA says children 16 or 17 must be in school full-time or register for the Pathways to Work Program (formerly the Employment Services Program). 106 C.M.R. § 707.000 (C). This may be illegal; contact info@masslegalservices.org if this is a problem for you. Also consider asking for an accommodation on the basis of disability or learning disability. See Questions 25, 26, and 27.