Tim Noah: GED/High School Diploma Requirement for UI “Still A Bad Idea”

A colleague pointed out to me this morning that Timothy Noah at the New Republic has been writing about the proposal to ban unemployed workers without a high school diploma or GED from collecting unemployment benefits since the House proposed this idea back in December. Here is an excerpt from his original post on the subject, from December 19th:

The GED requirement, on the other hand, is a new way to communicate that if you lack a job you must be deficient. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m as concerned as the next guy about the fact that the high school graduation rate hasn’t increased in decades. If you don’t have a high school diploma, or a GED, you’re going to have a very difficult time getting a job. But if someone is collecting unemployment who lacks either of these things we know that person managed to get a job in spite of this educational deficit–otherwise he or she wouldn’t be on unemployment. To require this person to enroll in a GED program as a condition of collecting benefits is in essence to say that you had no business being in the labor force to begin with. I can imagine that it might pose all sorts of practical problems simultaneously to start a GED program, look for a job, and jump through all the other hoops you need to to shake your unemployment check free from the state bureaucracy. Wouldn’t it make more sense to focus on getting yourself a job, and then enroll, if circumstances allow, in a GED program?

If you’re employed, have no high school diploma or GED, and aren’t enrolled in a GED program, you don’t get to opt out of the unemployment insurance program. You can’t tell your boss, “Hey, give that money to me, not to the state, because I don’t have a GED and I don’t intend to get one even if I lose my job.” You just pay into the insurance pool just like everyone else… I’m not suggesting that high school dropouts… be given such an opt-out; obviously that would undermine the solvency of the state unemployment insurance fund (which is probably pretty shaky to begin with). What I’m saying is that it’s unfair to impose conditions on drawing from an unemployment insurance fund that don’t exist when you’re paying into it. And it opens the gates wide to imposing all sorts of other petty conditions whose real purpose would be to further stigmatize and humiliate people whose sole offense to society is that they once had a job and then lost it. (my emphasis)

I agreee with the point I highlighted in first paragraph—but I think it’s worse than he describes. The other hoop you’d have to jump through is proving that you are in the right kind of class and that you are making “satisfactory progress” since the House proposal doesn’t define either. (See my post here.)

Here is Noah’s latest on this subject, from February 1st.