Will IB fees be refunded?

Senior Carrie Vergel de Dios is currently enrolled in IB English, IB Spanish, IB Geography, IB Anthropology, IB Photography and IB Math Studies. Beside her heavy course load, she is also facing $450 in IB testing fees. There was a glimmer of hope for her family’s wallet, however, when Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli declared the fees illegal. The original proposed bill prohibiting school boards from charging students to take Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) exams stemming from this declaration has failed. Despite the bill’s failure, FCPS will continue to review the situation.

The new policy regarding fees for AP and IB exams was instated this school year as part of the approved budget. Legislators in Fairfax County disagreed with the decision and introduced the bill to the state’s Education Committee, however it was defeated in the House of Representatives in January.

Fairfax County currently charges students $75 to take an AP or IB exam and $100 to play a sport. AHS is one of eight schools to offer the IB program in Fairfax County. Superintendent of FCPS Jack Dale will be meeting with his staff in the next couple of weeks to decide a course of action. The final verdict on whether or not the fees will be refunded will be released sometime after March 14.

“I do understand that it takes money for IB to grade our exams, but I think that $75 is a little too expensive,” Vergel de Dios said. “It’s definitely a good thing that the county is reviewing this policy, especially for the people who aren’t taking IB classes just because they can’t afford to.”

Representative Kaye Kory (D), a sponsor of the legislation, stated on the Annandale, VA blogspot, “I strongly believe that charging fees for AP and IB tests is the same as charging for enrollment in the course. That is a violation of the Commonwealth of Virginia Constitution, and that gets into separate but equal education. It is extremely discriminatory to charge students to take an advanced course.” Kory represents the 38th District, which includes large sections of Annandale and Mason District.

“I don’t think it’s fair that we have to pay for something that’s required to pass the class,” junior Kyle Kowalczyk said. “I think it’s a good idea for them to review it, but I don’t think anything will change.”

“I think that it’s a little ironic to make the students that take the advanced courses have to pay to be able to take them,” senior Roger McGinnis said. “I’m glad that the county is reviewing the policy.” McGinnis is taking IB Math, IB Geography, IB English and IB Physics.

Cuccinelli issued a statement on Jan. 4 stating, “Because the Advanced Placement Examination test is the required end-of-course examination, it cannot reasonably be viewed as a service or program for which a fee may be levied.” The statement is in response to Senator David Marsden’s question on whether or not FCPS is legally allowed to charge students to take AP or IB exams.

If a student drops an AP or IB course and has already paid their fees for the exam, FCPS will not refund their money. If a class requires a student to take more than one exam, the student will only be charged for one exam. For students receiving free or reduced lunch, FCPS will pay the fees for their exams.

“I consider myself lucky to have a family that is willing to pay $450 because its for my education, but its really unfair to the kids who are missing out on the opportunity because of financial restrictions,” Vergel de Dios said.