Students protest Philipsburg-Osceola school district decision on AP test payments

PHILIPSBURG — Philipsburg-Osceola students are learning a little something about current affairs and government as they respond to a recent school board decision.

Aaron Long is a senior taking AP literature. Last year, he took AP history and language classes. But this time last year, he was preparing to take the AP tests that measure aptitude and, if the grade is high enough, can translate to college credit.

He won’t do that this year.

Last month, the school board decided to reverse their recent practice of paying the $89 per test fees, while also changing the rule that used to require students to take them in order to qualify for weighted grades and an AP designation on transcripts. Instead, the district would pay for half of the test this year, and none of the cost for the 2013-14 school year.

The decision left just two weeks for families to decide how to handle the expense. For some families, that translated to hundreds of dollars with multiple students taking multiple AP classes.

“At the beginning of the year, when we got the course selection guides, it did say it was up for vote,” said Long. Board policy called for the decision to be made on a yearly basis. The board had picked up the tab for the last two years, but retained the right to make a change. Meanwhile, more AP classes have been added, and more students signed up for them. This year’s estimate, if all eligible students took the test, was about $27,000.

After the decision, the school sent letters to the AP families, outlining the change, informing them that they had to pay for the tests and giving them the deadline.

“Everyone was upset and confused,” said Long, who said that he felt students and families were misled. Payments were due just two weeks from the day the letters were received. “So late in the year, everyone was under the assumption it was being paid for.”

The next day at school, Long decided “someone should do something.” So he did.

“I made a petition,” he said. On Monday, he submitted it to the board’s secretary with 93 signatures, all from students enrolled in the AP classes, asking that the board pay for the tests this year because of the time frame.

Long’s commitment didn’t end there. He took the form he received with his notification letter, and returned it with a note instead of a check.

“I wrote I wasn’t paying for it because I felt I shouldn’t have to and turned that in,” he said.

His parents, Esther and Ted Long, support his decision.

Other parents at the last meeting were concerned about the sudden burden on families that did not have the time to plan for the expense. Hope Hughes, whose daughters both take AP classes, said she would do whatever it took to pay for the tests but knew others would not be able to do the same on such short notice.

The petition was submitted in time to be discussed at Tuesday’s committee meeting, but Long was warned it may not be addressed due to a new change that separates the mid-month committee meeting from the special voting session that once followed it. Without a voting agenda, the board will not entertain public comment for the meeting. However, Long is still planning to attend the meeting in case the board has any questions for him about the petition.