Members of the Education Committee heard testimony Feb. 24 on a bill that would allocate funding to private entities offering high school equivalency programs.
LB382, introduced by Omaha Sen. Tanya Cook, would provide grant funding to any entity, other than an educational institution, that runs a qualified high school equivalency training program. Cook said that it is important to continue providing easy access to educational opportunities across the state.
“Studies have shown that workers with a high school diploma or GED have greater employment opportunities and earning potential than those who do not,” she said. “We need to recognize the vital challenge in preparing an adult workforce in which all individuals are competent in reading, writing, mathematics and computer skills.”
Literacy Center of the Midlands in Omaha currently is the only program that would qualify for funding under the bill. The amount of the grant funding would depend on the number of enrolled students.
Stephanie Hansen, president of the Literacy Center’s board of directors, spoke in favor of the bill. Hansen said her experience as a deputy county attorney in Sarpy County has reinforced her belief in the importance of education.
“One of the things I’ve seen in my practice is watching judges ask ‘What’s your highest level of education?’ when sentencing someone,” she said. “Judges frequently make obtaining a GED a condition of probation. [This program] is a small investment that can pay huge dividends later.”
A Literacy Center graduate, Rico Campbell, also supported the bill. He said that obtaining his GED has completely changed his life.
“I dropped out of school at a young age to get a job and support my children,” he said. “Going back to school at 58 was very hard; a lot of times I wanted to give up. Now I’m a volunteer at the center and I’m working on my second goal—to go to college.”
No one testified in opposition to the bill and the committee took no immediate action on it.