A Tennessee lawmaker is pushing a controversial new bill that would tie welfare benefits to students' performance in school.

Republican state Sen. Stacey Campfield introduced the legislation last week, calling for the state to cut welfare benefits to parents whose kids don't do well in class.

He says it will force parents to take a more active role in their children’s education. Critics, though, are panning the proposal as unfair, and one that could hurt children in the end.

Currently, parents of children who receive welfare benefits through the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program can see their benefits cut by 20 percent if their child doesn't show up for school. Campfield's proposal goes a step further and requires students make "satisfactory academic progress."

If they don't, recipients could see their checks slashed by 30 percent. "Satisfactory academic progress" would reportedly be measured based on whether a student is advancing through grade levels and how they do on standardized testing. Calls and emails to Campfield's office were not immediately returned.

"Parents are responsible to make sure their kids are ready for school and that they get an education," the senator wrote on his blog. "The state cannot continue to support the generational cycle of poverty."

The impact of the bill could be widespread. Tennessee had 155,281 people on welfare in 2011. Only four states in the nation -- California, New York, Ohio and Michigan -- ranked higher in per-capita welfare recipients.

In an interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel, Campfield referred to success in public schools as a "three-legged stool" – schools, teachers and parents. He said schools and teachers have done their part and now it’s time for parents to do theirs.

According to the Tennessee Department of Education, the state had a 87.2 percent high school graduation rate in 2012, up from 85.5 percent in 2011. The state’s rate is well above the national average of 78.2 percent.

It is estimated that if Tennessee can up its graduation rate to 90 percent, the state could see a $90 million increase in annual earnings and could enjoy $16 million more in additional tax revenues, according to a March 20, 2012 article in the Chattanooga Times-Free Press.

It is not yet known how successful Campfield’s push to tie welfare benefits to good grades will be. Multiple calls to Tennessee legislators have not yet been returned.

Campfield does not have children.