Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened Tuesday to withdraw state support for Advanced Placement programs and expand other methods of awarding college credit to high school students, escalating a highly unusual clash that burst into public last month when his administration rejected plans for a new AP African American studies course.
The state education department, based on its view of preliminary documents, declared in January that the African American studies course “lacks educational value.” DeSantis (R) — citing proposed lessons on “queer theory,” “intersectionality” and other topics — criticized the plan for what he called “indoctrination” and “a political agenda.” When the College Board, which oversees AP, debuted the official course plan on Feb. 1, it provoked a debate over whether it had watered down the content to mollify DeSantis and his conservative allies. The College Board fiercely denied that claim and said on Saturday that DeSantis had slandered its course.
In Jacksonville on Tuesday, DeSantis suggested at a news conference that the state could curtail the role of all AP classes in Florida schools — not just the one in African American studies.
“AP is kind of with the College Board,” DeSantis said. “Who elected them? Are there other people that provide services? Turns out there are.” He cited the International Baccalaureate and Cambridge Assessment programs as alternatives that — like AP — enable students to qualify for college credit after passing an exam. He also plugged dual enrollment programs that let high school students take classes from professors at nearby colleges.
DeSantis said he supports opportunities for high school students to earn college credit. “Does it have to be done by the College Board?” he asked. “Or can we utilize some of these other providers who I think have a really, really strong track record?” He added: “It’s not clear to me that this particular operator” — referring to the College Board — “is the one that’s going to need to be used in the future.”
The College Board did not immediately respond to an email request for comment. A DeSantis spokesman said the administration is “reviewing options.”
As a practical matter, it is unclear whether or how AP could be eliminated in Florida. The program, with more than three dozen courses in math, science, social sciences, humanities, languages and other topics, is deeply entrenched in the state and nationwide.
More than 199,000 Florida students enrolled in AP classes in 2020-21. About 366,000 AP tests were given in Florida in 2021, more than in any other state except Texas (527,000) and California (683,000).
Scores of three or higher on the test’s five-point scale can help students qualify for college credit, potentially reducing the cost of a bachelor’s degree. The AP brand is also an important marker of rigor on the transcripts of students applying to competitive colleges.
According to the College Board, Florida pays AP exam fees in public schools. Whether DeSantis would seek to cut that funding is unclear. The program generates significant revenue for the College Board. This year’s fee is $97 per test, not counting rebates and discounts.
State records show about 100,000 high school students a year participate in dual enrollment programs with nearby colleges or universities. The IB and Cambridge programs are smaller, but they also have a footprint in Florida. Data on their programs was not immediately available.