Adult high school bill aims to give adults a second chance

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JEFFERSON CITY - There is a stigma associated with individuals who seek a GED. GED’s, also known as high school equivalency degrees, are often not viewed as such.

Some GED programs are housed in actual high schools, others in career centers, but Missouri wants to be the first to introduce adult high schools.

There is a new bill circulating in Jefferson City that if approved, would create four adult high schools in the state. These schools would allow adults 21 and older to attain a high school diploma rather than a GED or equivalency degree.

Currently, the bill proposes to start the schools in St. Louis, Boone County, Southeast Missouri, and Springfield.

Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, sponsor of House Bill 680, said too many Missourians don’t have a high school diploma, and it’s affecting their livelihood.

“The difference between a high school diploma and a GED, there’s a stark difference in earning power. Of the 500,000 adult Missourians that don't have a high school diploma, more than 350,000 of them are on food stamps and have children,” Fitzwater said.

“We want to make sure not only are we providing them a diploma, which is important for their earning potential,” Fitzwater said. “But also in these schools there will be dual certification opportunities.” He said he hopes local businesses will jump on board and hire students once they graduate.

The adult high school program will allow each individual to pick up where he or she left off. If a student had 10 high school credits when he or she dropped out, he or she would start the adult high school with those 10 credits.

The program would be designed to have students graduate within two years.

Though the bill is popular amongst legislators from both parties, some Missouri educators think it is a bit farfetched.

Chris Felmlee, the superintendent of Southern Boone School District, said the bill sounds great but may be unrealistic since these schools will not be funded by the state like other schools.

“Any investment in adult education is a great economical investment, and it’s going to pay back dividends in the future. Unfortunately, my concern with this bill is that there isn’t really a funding source. It’s all private and nonprofit donation more or less.”

The bill would allow a nonprofit organization to get a license to operate the four schools. Fitzwater said the nonprofit would have to commit $2 million to start the schools. No money would be taken from general revenue. The highest-bidding organization would also be in charge of running the schools across the state.

Felmlee said attaining a high school diploma rather than a GED may be more of an emotional experience to some. “Nonetheless, I have high hopes for the program, it  will give people the opportunity to start over.”

The House passed House Bill 680 on March 27, and it is currently awaiting final approval in the Senate.