The Kentucky Department of Education will spend up to $800,000 to underwrite the cost of Advanced Placement tests for the 2016-17 school year for students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said Friday.
While state law requires costs of the exams to be paid by the Kentucky Department of Education, state funding has not been available for the tests that give students college credit, education officials said. In the past, state officials secured federal grants to pay the fees for private and public school students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Recently enacted federal education law eliminates funding for the tests.
“All students should have equal access to the benefits of AP coursework,” said Pruitt, who reallocated money from other areas of the state education budget. Pruitt said it was a way of addressing the “opportunity gap” — between low-income students and their peers.
Andrew Brennen. a 2014 graduate of Lexington’s Paul Laurence Dunbar High School who is concerned about the unfunded mandate, told the Herald-Leader on Friday that state lawmakers should make it possible so that the state education department can pay for all students taking the Advanced Placement exam.
In 2008, when the state passed changes to state law, “lawmakers bragged to Kentucky students and families that they were no longer going to be responsible for covering the costs of the expensive” Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests, Brennen said.
“This never happened for tens of thousands of Kentucky students,” Brennen said. “Commissioner Pruitt deserves credit for doing everything he can to ensure that there are no barriers to students who hope to be college and career ready. Our state legislature should adopt a similar posture. In this case it’s quite simple. Follow the law and honor your promise.”
In 2016, more than 4,000 colleges and universities around the world received qualifying AP test scores for college credit, advanced placement, or consideration in admissions, with many colleges offering credit in one or more subjects for qualifying scores, education officials said.
Without the state education department covering the fee, it would be up to districts to pay the $53 test fee for students living in poverty.
Data from 2016 show that nationwide among blacks, Hispanic and Native American students with the potential to succeed in AP courses, only about half enroll, officials said Friday.