Government should be above bribery

New York City has announced plans to pay parents to be… well, parents. The city aims to target its high poverty problem by paying poor parents to attend parent teacher conferences and hold a full-time job.

Families will earn payments every two months for meeting goals like getting a medical checkup, and can receive up to $5,000 a year.

So let me get this right… we’re going to beat poverty by bribing poor people? Not by ensuring access to education or creating better jobs – tasks seemingly too hard for a government. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg stands behind the “experiment.” He said, “In the private sector, financial incentives encourage actions that are good for the company: working harder, hitting sales targets or landing more clients.

“In the public sector, we believe that financial incentives will encourage actions that are good for the city and its families: higher attendance in schools, more parental involvement in education and better career skills.”

Apparently, the Mexican version of the program, “Oportunidades,” has seen some success. The New York Times reported school enrollment and nutrition levels have risen since the program began there 10 years ago.

But how does it reflect on our society – America, the most “developed” nation in the world – that we have to bribe parents to care about their children?

What’s even crazier is the program has much support. Charitable foundations have donated $42 million of the $50 million needed to begin the experiment, which will track 5,000 families drawn from six of the poorest neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

Is it coincidental that the poorest families are from predominantly black neighborhoods?

Driadonna Roland for the Editorial Board.