Monday, March 22, 2010
State seeks to cut $$ for GED testing | - SILive.com
Reprinted from the SI Advance. Photo of Cristine Quinn, from AP
State seeks to cut $$ for GED testing | - SILive.com: "From the Print Edition »
State seeks to cut $$ for GED testing
By Amy Padnani
March 22, 2010, 2:12AM
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- State officials have proposed a drastic cut in funding for GED testing, making it difficult for Staten Islanders to gain access to an already beleaguered system.
The proposal comes weeks after City Council Speaker Christine Quinn vowed to help thousands more people across the city realize the benefits of a GED, a certification of high school-level academic skills, through a three-tiered outreach plan.
'It's a pretty devastating cut for not a lot of savings,' said Council Speaker Christine Quinn. 'And it will have a tremendous impact on people's ability to take the tests.'
According to officials, the state Board of Regents proposed a $1.5 million, or 38 percent, reduction in funding, to $2.4 million from $3.9 million, to help close the state's $9 billion budget deficit. The money is typically used to reimburse testing centers for the cost of renting classrooms, hiring proctors and other administrative tasks.
'It's a pretty devastating cut for not a lot of savings,' Ms. Quinn said. 'And it will have a tremendous impact on people's ability to take the tests.'
NO OTHER PLACE
A spokesman from the state Education Department said there was no other place to trim their budget.
'There aren't any other measures that we can take at this time,' said Jonathan Burman, the spokesman. 'Terminating the contracts is painful for all, but we thoroughly vetted all alternatives and this was our only option.'
Last year, 55,796 people across the state took the GED, 2,317 of them from Staten Island, according to Burman. Of those, 48 percent passed.
Though it costs centers $20 to process each exam, there is no charge to people who want to take it. That means people repeatedly taking the test without studying for it, contended Donna Grant, director of the adult learning center at the College of Staten Island, which issues 97 GED exams per year and has a waiting list of 150 applicants. People are only allowed to take the tests three times per year.
Many times, Ms. Grant said, people will take a practice test and find that they're at a third- or fourth-grade reading level. But instead of enrolling in a basic education, they sign up to take the test and fail.
'People are taking the test who are not prepared to take the test,' Ms. Grant said. 'I think the state feels, in the financial straits they are in right now, to continue to pay $20 per test, particularly for people who are going to take the test over and over and over again who are not in a prep program, that it's sort of ridiculous. I see the state's side, I really do. But there are states that charge a fee of test candidates so they wouldn't be so quick to take the test again every time they fail.'
Ms. Grant said rather than cutting funding, there should be a push to get people into prep programs. Without that, testing centers are liable to offer fewer tests, making it harder for people -- dedicated or not -- to find a way to take them.
It's already difficult for borough residents to find a place to take the exam, said Prince Cobbina, a personal advocate with the Achievement in Career and Education program, a GED prep program based at CSI.
'We have to outsource students to Brooklyn and Manhattan,' he said. 'It's going to make it hard for us. It takes so much motivation just for them to come to classes, then we have to send them across the water to take the GED.'"