OTHER OPINION: Failure to fund GED is shameful

By The Times Record, Fort Smith, Ark.

If Arkansas ever is to advance, we know gaining more college degree holders has to be part of the plan. Before we can get there, gaining high school diplomas and GEDs is essential.
On these points, Arkansas is in danger of going backward.
Act 1063, enacted into law during this year’s legislative session, authorizes the state Board of Career Education to approve fees for administering the GED. Up until now, Arkansas has been one of two states that offer the test for free.
The GED test allows people who, for whatever reason, don’t have a high school diploma, to demonstrate their command of high school work and earn a certificate that is the equivalent of a diploma.
Until now the state has demonstrated its belief that helping these people get ahead is a good investment by footing the bill for the current fee of $20 per test.
The test now will be administered by computer only, and the testing service will charge the state $30 for each of the test’s four parts.
Between 8,000 and 10,000 people take the test each year, and between 6,000 and 8,000 of them pass it, according to the ANB report.
That decision is “a typical example of not investing in things that make a difference,” said Fort Smith schools Superintendent Benny Gooden last week.
The U.S. Department of Labor states that GED graduates make $7,658 per year more than non-high school graduates. If that’s true for this year’s grads, those 350 GEDs added $2,680,300 to the tax base, Director Udouj said.
How can it be that a poor state desperately seeking to improve its reputation, its national standing in education and its standard of living could not assemble a Legislature that cared enough to ensure that this previously simple and cost-effective way to improve a person’s economic situation remained available?
They just weren’t interested? That is a cause for shame.