Tennessee's oldest adult literacy education program loses state GED funds

Tennessee's oldest adult literacy education program loses state GED funds

June 4th, 2013 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Skip Eberhardt, left, talks about the importance of GED tests as students Daniel Clark, Jalisa Burress and James Bruce, from left, stand outside of a Dodds Avenue building Friday. The Dodds Avenue location will be used as an office to prepare people for the GED test.

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

ReStart, Tennessee's oldest adult literacy education program, lost its contract with the state this year to provide preparation for GED testing.

The nonprofit at 1501 Riverside Drive lost $231,491 in state funding. Now Chattanooga State Community College will be the only provider in the city contracted by the state to prepare people for the GED test.

The general educational development test is only administered at Chattanooga State's testing center on Amnicola Highway.

"It has to do with money and not having enough," said Marva Doremus, Division of Adult Education administrator with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, which funds state-contracted adult education programs.

The state had contracted with ReStart and Chattanooga State Community College for at least the past seven years. But this year the two had to compete for the contract, and Chattanooga State won.

Hamilton County is among several areas where the state plans to cut administrative costs by having only one service provider in a county.

"We're going regional," said Doremus. "Just so we aren't duplicating administrative cost."

The state plans to use the administrative cost savings to pay for more classes.

The problem with taking away funding from ReStart is that the program was filling a big need, said Lori Hairrell, ReStart executive director.

About 200 of its students had passed the GED test since July 2012. Chattanooga State and ReStart will host a combined graduation of GED students June 20. ReStart is scheduled to host its last graduation in December.

Another 300 ReStart students took the test and failed it. Officials said they wanted to get those students prepared to take the test again before January, when the test is expected to change. Hairrell said the program still is funded by the United Way.

In January the GED test no longer will be the only high school diploma equivalency test. Tennessee will offer the Tennessee alternative diploma.

Tennessee legislators approved the new test, designed by the creators of the SAT as an alternative to the GED. They acted after GED, which was a nonprofit, was purchased by a for-profit company, Doremus said.

Currently students may pay $65 to take the test at a center and wait 30 days to get the test results, or take it online for $120 and get results in less than a week.

After Jan. 1, students still will be able to take the GED online for $120, but the paper test will cost $75, said Doremus.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com.