Cuts affect AP test funds

PARKERSBURG – Some local school officials are scrambling in reaction to federal funding cuts Friday, possibly as a result of sequestration.

Officials at Parkersburg High School said typical federal funding to allow students who qualify for free and reduced-price lunch to take AP tests for college credit is not available.

Pam Goots, principal at PHS, said officials only recently became aware of the lack of funding. She said AP advisers at the school had not received the paperwork. When they contacted state officials at the West Virginia Center for Professional Development they were told the money to pay for the program had not come from the federal government.

“We got no notice,” Goots said. “We called and asked.”

Parkersburg High officials are not yet sure how many students are impacted, but it will be at least 60 students and approximately 300 tests. Tests cost $89 each.

Jim Blanc, guidance counselor at Parkersburg South High School, was not aware of the cuts, and he was unsure how many students will be impacted. About 50 percent of the students at PSHS qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, he said.

“It would be significant.”

Dixie Billheimer, chief executive officer for the center for professional development, said they have received no word from the U.S. Department of Education regarding the waivers. Last year, the center received $53,000 in federal funds for the waiver program.

“Most of the time, around this time we do have it,” she said of the notification.

For students to receive college credit for the AP classes they must take the test and achieve a minimum score. Christy Day, spokeswoman for the center, said students will still receive high school credit for the classes, regardless, but passing the AP tests is required for college credit.

“West Virginia is not the only state that this is happening,” Day said. “We expect to hear from them one way or the other.”

Corinne Full, English teacher at Parkersburg High, said the tests allow students to receive college credit for high school AP courses.

“If you take the class and pass the three-hour test you can get college credit,” she said. “It is very frustrating for these students who have worked very hard to not get to take these tests.”

Billheimer said they have been fielding calls from schools with questions.

“We are hopeful,” she said. “We know how important it is to students, schools and the educational community.”

“We know all the schools are in the same situation,” Billheimer added. “We hope to hear from someone sooner rather than later.”

Paperwork for the testing has to be turned in by Friday, giving officials little turnaround time to come up with other alternatives.

“Had we known this a month ago, it would have been easier to deal with,” Goots said. “We were never notified that the money wasn’t there.”

Blanc said funding for such expenses varies by county. In Jefferson County, he said, the board picks up the tab for all students with regard to AP tests.

Goots said Wood County already provides some money to assist with the testing costs for students who have a financial hardship, but don’t qualify for free and reduced-price lunch.

Wood County Schools Superintendent Pat Law said administrators just became aware of the situation.

“We don’t know the numbers and we don’t know the costs,” he said.

Law also said there’s nothing set aside for the shortfall.

“We want to try to fund and provide for these students as best we can,” Law said.

Goots said using a college board discount, the school is able to charge $50 for the test. But they are in need of funding if the program is to continue. She said one teacher is emailing other educators asking for donations to help cover the cost of the test for students.

“We are operating on the premise this money is not coming.”