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State Bill Calls For The Waiving Of The $125 GED Fee For Homeless Youth

By Sophie Lucido Johnson in News on Apr 8, 2016 7:11PM

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State Senator Ira Silverstein (D) is calling for legislation that would exempt homeless youth from paying for their GED exams, CBS Chicago reported. The legislation wouldn't be unique to Illinois: California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a similar bill into law last September, prohibiting the Department of Education and testing companies from charging exam fees to homeless people younger than 25.

According to the most recent data, almost 90 percent of jobs require at least a high school diploma. Homeless youth have dropped out of high school will have to pay, on average, $120 to $150 to take a GED test. An analysis by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless conducted last year found that 20,205 in the Chicago Public School system were homeless last year. The study found that 98.1 percent of homeless students 98.1 were children of color, and another 18.3 percent were students diagnosed with disabilities or developmental delays. Overall, children and teens comprise 35 percent, and unaccompanied youth (ages 14 to 17) comprised 3.5 percent of the Chicago's total homeless population.

“Unfortunately, the way the economy is going, we have more homeless people, and they have kids who are going to go to school, they’re barely making ends meet, and these tests are important for these young men and women,” Silverstein told CBS.

The announcement of this legislation comes at the heels of the announcement of a recent citywide task force dedicated to fighting homelessness in Chicago. While the task force—initiated by Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week—would aim at improving efficiency among city departments serving the homeless, it notably overlooks reinstating drastically cut mental health services.

If passed, the legislation would allow regional school superintendents to waive the fee for the GED test for young people who are homeless. The proposal was advanced by the Senate Education Committee on an 11-0 vote, will move to the full Senate for consideration.