By Representative Elaine Gannon
Instead of lamenting the students who fail to graduate from High School in Missouri, we can help to make sure that when they realize they made a destructive choice they know there is a solution. My bill, HB 469, would make the HI-SET, which is the high school equivalency exam, free for first-time test takers in Missouri. While the $95 dollar cost may not seem overwhelming to some of us, it is out of reach for those who find themselves without a job and the circular reason is because they don’t have a high school diploma or its equivalency.
Reality dictates that without a high school degree, even sweeping floors can be out-of-bounds at some establishments. Taxpayers end up paying for the health care, food, prison stay, and sometimes funeral costs of people who can’t get employed.. we can pay for their test now or we can pay later.
While there is an estimated 50,000 drop-outs in Missouri the experts in the field estimate that about age 23-25 is when a majority of high school drop-outs hit rock bottom and face the pain of their lives and this is what drives some to take the test.
Unfortunately, criminal activity, suffering addictions, and joining gangs, too often becomes the direction students head toward. Why? It’s survival and a way to escape. We would hope we would make different choices and yet we don’t know what we would do. We don’t know the circumstances that led to their dropping out in the first place and yet statistics tell us that a majority of the time there is a problem in the home whether it be economic, drug addiction, neglect, abuse either at home or from someone in their environment, or overworked caregivers.
Instead of criticizing these dropouts when they show up in the unemployment lines, or instead of looking the other way, the Missouri Legislature can help these students to get their lives headed in a better direction. In fact, given the relatively tough budget environment we are in, giving students a chance to live a life of self-sufficiency becomes even more important as some social services may hit the chopping block.
These are the students that get missed as in many cases they are the homeless, the near homeless, the single pregnant mom who has to leave school for her baby, the student who won’t talk about how the electric got turned off at home or the bullying at the bus stop. These are the students Missouri can care about. Passing this bill will reflect the head and the heart of the Assembly working together.
As the bill moves through the House and goes to the Senate, I reiterate for all Missourians that government can serve a purpose as the safety net, and yes we can give students a hand up, and the opportunity to pass high school, get a job, and live a life of dignity.