by Max Brantley
A new test nationwide is going to increase the cost of the standard test required to complete a high school diploma. The 2013 legislature balked at providing the money to cover the increased cost. In the past, the state paid for testing, under the theory that encouraging high school completion was a good thing.
But the Republican legislature first bridled at even authorizing an appropriation. It finally did, but didn't fund the appropriation. There were tax cuts for millionaires to be considered first.
Not all Republicans were heartless. Sen. Jane English is quoted:
Sen. Jane English, R-North Little Rock, who also pushed for state funding to cover the test fees, said she is fiscally conservative, but she believes helping people qualify to get jobs makes good fiscal sense.
“We need those people to be part of the work force,” she said.
Rep. Debra Hobbs, who's announced that God wants her to run for governor, again wins the Keith Olbermann Memorial Worst Person in the World Award. Said Hobbs, whose general lack of significant legislative work DID include vigorous opposition to help with GED testing:
“Sometimes there may be hardship reasons that people had to quit school or whatever, but in some cases it’s kids that didn’t want to apply themselves in high school and didn’t want to do the things required to be successful and so they chose to drop out of school,” Rep. Debra Hobbs, R-Rogers, said last week.
“We fund, obviously, K-12 already, and then they choose this alternative route and then some people feel like the taxpayers that did do what they were supposed to should just be OK with picking up the whole tab,” said Rogers, who has announced plans to run for governor in 2014.
Hobbs, you'll remember, wasn't very sympathetic either to those people who lack health insurance. Why, the woman who cleaned her house could pay for her own rather than rely on ARKids if she'd just find some more employment.
Rep. Warwick Sabin, who pushed for money to cover GED tests, commented:
“That’s insensitive and it’s tone deaf, and it doesn’t acknowledge many of the factors that lead people to have to rely on the GED for the kind of certification they need to be employed,” he said. “There are family instances, there are economic challenges, there are sometimes inadequate services provided by our schools and our educational system. If someone is going to make the effort to take this test, then I think the state should do everything they can to help that person and not impede them in trying to become a productive member of society.”
Sabin said lawmakers’ priorities were “very off base.”
“The Legislature just gave out over $100 million in tax cuts, and most of those tax cuts were geared towards the wealthiest individuals and the biggest corporations and manufacturers. So to argue that somehow it was impossible to find $1.8 million to enable people who are working hard to help themselves and become productive members of the community makes absolutely no sense to me,” he said.
Takers and givers. You decide if the person trying to get a GED is a taker and whether the state should help defray the cost of a betterment test. Or is a taker the Walton grandchild who sells $10 million in inherited Walmart stock and owes not a single cent of income tax thanks to House Speaker Davy Carter's comfort-the-rich tax legislation?