FRANKFORT, Ky. (January 19, 2022) – Representative DJ Johnson (R-Daviess) is working to modify a state law that creates a barrier for students who must pursue alternative education pathways. The bill, HB 194, would allow students who are unable to graduate and who meet other specific criteria to immediately begin working on their General Education Development (GED) certification. A high school diploma or GED are key to helping potential workers be better qualified for job opportunities.
“Our education system is designed to provide an incentive for students to stay the course and get their regular diploma. But the reality is that there are students that will not graduate,” said Johnson. “Once out of school, these students typically spend months looking for employment while at the same time trying to obtain a GED certificate. This proposal is about making sure we help young Kentuckians earn their GED as efficiently as possible.”
Under the current system, students must be 19 to take the GED test. Those who are 18 must have officially withdrawn from school for at least 90 days, or have the permission of a local superintendent to waive the waiting period. Of Kentucky’s seven neighboring states, only Illinois requires students to be older than 16 when they begin testing.
“We’re not advocating for a GED over a high school diploma. After all, we know that high school graduates with a diploma will probably make a higher wage than those who do not have that diploma. But we also know that you can’t even get your foot on the bottom rung of the work ladder without a GED. We have a responsibility to do everything we can to keep people learning; to help them get across the finish line. There’s a gap here and we want to close it,” Johnson added.
The House Majority Caucus remains committed to making Kentucky the best place to work and live. Johnson believes that providing students attending alternatives schools with the opportunity to earn their GED will help alleviate the state’s increasingly strained labor market. Kentucky ranks third-worst nationally in labor participation, a number that has trended the wrong way for two decades already. Fifteen percent of adults in Kentucky do not have their high school diploma or equivalent.
“So many Kentuckians are struggling to enter the workforce because most jobs require at least a high school diploma or GED, and this is causing them to stop actively looking for employment altogether,” said Johnson. “This bill allows individuals to obtain the necessary certificates in the educational setting, so they are ready to gain meaningful work immediately after high school.”