If you tried to find a way to discourage uneducated people from developing the skills they need to get a decent job, you’d probably make a move much like this.
After Aug. 9, Ohio residents no longer will be able to sign up for the General Educational Development test — more commonly known as the GED — for $40. After that, the same test will cost $120.
That doesn’t sound like an enormous amount of money for most of the people reading this, but for many of the folks in a position to seek a GED, tripling the cost literally will price them out of the market.
That is unfair — not only to them, but to the rest of us.
Now, I think we can all agree that, in trying to do the right thing over the past half-century, we have created a situation where many poor people have an economic incentive to not work. And most of us are sick and tired of subsidizing people who won’t even try to better themselves.
But sometimes we forget there are still plenty of folks at the bottom of the economic pile who desperately want to claw their way out and find meaningful jobs — and are willing to bust their butts to do so.
Incredibly, we have just thrown another weight on their backs.
Education is still the ticket to ride. Unless you are a savvy, driven, self-taught, one-in-a-million entrepreneur with an IQ of 150, you are simply not going to find decent work without a high school diploma or the equivalent.
With a GED, you can get into trade schools and other training programs, and maybe even college. Prospective employers will give you a much longer look.
The phrase “penny wise and pound foolish” could have been invented for this very situation.
The GED test is owned by the American Council on Education. That private group has hooked up with another private group, Pearson VUE Testing. The first group is nonprofit. The second group is for-profit. So guess what happens to the price?
The state can’t do anything about this. Well, unless the Education Department wants to create its own test, which would take plenty of time and money. And even then the state’s test probably would not be widely accepted by colleges for another extended period of time.
The financial situation for potential test-takers is even worse when you consider that, until 2010, the state covered the $40 testing fee if an applicant could pass a practice test. That subsidy is gone, the victim of budget cuts.
The new test will be taken on computers, rather than on paper. Not a big deal, unless you’ve already passed one or two of the five parts of the paper test. Once the computer testing kicks in at the start of 2014, you won’t get credit for any of the paper tests you already have passed.
Another problem: The testing sites, which number 99 throughout Ohio, are being cut by about half. That also will pump up Pearson’s bottom line, of course.
(Fortunately, two of the computer test sites will be in Akron, at Herzing University and Project Learn of Summit County. Sites also will be available in Ravenna, North Canton, Medina and Orrville.)
To beat the price increase, you’ll need to apply and pay within the next three weeks. For details, Google “Ohio GED.”
(I would have given the toll-free number for the Ohio Department of Education, for the benefit of people without easy access to a computer, but after wading through the recorded information, you would discover that the only way to apply is online.)
After Aug. 9?
Short of smacking the people at Pearson upside the head, which would be emotionally satisfying but probably not terribly productive, we need to do something to subsidize the cost of these tests.
As a taxpayer, wouldn’t you rather spend $120 now than spend an exponentially larger sum on a lifetime of welfare and food stamps and rent subsidies and, in many cases, law enforcement and public defenders and jails?
Most people who are poor landed in their hospital nurseries with the odds stacked against them. They had the bad luck to have been born to poor and/or disinterested parents. They are likely headed home to a neighborhood where blight is far more prevalent than optimism, where education is an afterthought, where diets are poor, where peer pressure to do the wrong thing never lets up.
It’s amazing that any of the infants born into those circumstances can overcome his or her upbringing.
But some do. And you don’t have to be a bleeding heart to think that giving them a hand now is better than giving them a perpetual handout.
Bob Dyer can be reached at 330-996-3580 or email@example.com.