After COVID-19 disrupted ACT testing in the spring, the hope was for free testing to be provided in the fall semester for college-bound students, but due to recent cuts to the state's budget, free testing will not be available.
The state planned to use $1.9 million for spring tests to provide this fall. However, COVID-19 forced lawmakers to make financial cuts because of budget shortfalls. The Legislature cut the state education department's 2020-21 budget by $78 million, including more than $5 million in testing.
“It's definitely a disruption for students in being able to learn,” said Rep. Chelsey Branham, D-Oklahoma City. “It's definitely a disruption for them being able other needs.”
Oklahoma received more than $1.2 billion from the federal CARES Act. Nearly $40 million of that went to the Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund. However, Gov. Kevin Stitt's office said that money is already being used for other projects.
“Underserved populations, they need to have access to the ACT,” said Rep. Jacob Rosecrants, D-Norman. “It harms many of the children here in Oklahoma.”
According to the Oklahoma City Public School District, they aren't concerned. Due to the effects of COVID-19, a number of colleges are relaxing their requirements for incoming students, they said. But some district administrators said canceling the free test can have negative effects on their students.
“Many colleges are using the ACT or SAT scores for scholarship opportunities,” said Kristi Hernandez, student services director for Moore Public Schools. “Many of our kids that are in line for that are not having the opportunity to take the test like they should.”
In a statement from the Oklahoma Department of Education, they said, "While we had hoped to provide a make-up ACT/SAT opportunity this fall, cuts to the state testing budget prevented that possibility."
Juniors this school year will be taking the ACT/SAT for free in the spring as part of a federal mandate.