AP exams just got pricier

DOWNEY - State budget cuts have affected Downey High School in one more way: funding for Advanced Placement exams will no longer be offered to students belonging to the Gifted and Talented Education, or GATE, program.Each AP exam costs $86 at DHS for the average student and a total of 14 exams are made available for the 2009-2010 school year. Though it was precedent for GATE students to be offered money to help cover the costs of their AP tests, GATE funds will instead be used for the general fund. "What is happening is the burden of education is being shifted from taxpayers to the families," writes DHS GATE Coordinator Bernie Glasser in an email. "This is basically a hidden tax. We are directly charging parents for services that used to be included in a general education. So in many ways the government is raising taxes without having to say they are raising taxes." Funding this year has not been offered to GATE students for AP testing mainly due to the fact that districts are allowed by the state to use categorical funds for the general fund in order to help balance the budget for school districts. Though this does affect GATE students, AP tests will continue to be taken, only not as much as they would have been had there been funds. One example of a student forced to make a decision due to the GATE funding cuts is a DHS senior and GATE member, Marisol Montano, who had initially planned on taking six AP tests, but has chosen to narrow it down to four after learning there will be no help. "I had a $70 dollar voucher last year and it helped cover one test," said Montano. "This year, though, I'm taking more AP classes and I don't have the voucher so I have to pay everything and there's no help so now I have to pick and choose what I would like to take, even though I would like to have taken everything. I've worked hard and I'm a little bit disappointed by it, but I would rather they cut this than cut other programs." Though funds for GATE students in particular have been eliminated, financial aid is still offered to students who qualify, generally the students who have applied and qualify for the School Lunch Program at Downey. "The California Department of Education is supplementing the cost of exams for students from low income households," writes AP Coordinator Tina Carlson in an email. "Students who qualify are able to purchase exams for $5.00." The AP test that is now $86 for the high-achieving student can be cut down to $5 if the student qualifies; however, GATE students for the 2009-2010 school year are now placed in the large pool of other students and will no not have their own separate funding apart from the general fund. "Generally, I think the state should be funding the GATE program specifically and education in general," writes Glasser. "I think the school district is making a difficult decision in shifting funds to the greatest number of students. These are tough choices that are a result of a downturn in the California economy as well as Californians and legislature not providing enough funding for education."

********** Published: March 19, 2010 - Volume 8 - Issue 48