Bellicose, Antagonistic, Pugnacious: Ron DeSantis Has Declared War on the SATs

After the group that administers the test criticized him, the Florida governor questioned the “need” for SAT tests in his state.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks to guests at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting on November 19, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made a habit of retaliating against entities that even slightly criticize him, including unilaterally removing an elected Democratic prosecutor in Tampa and revoking Disney World’s longstanding self-governance after Disney’s former CEO opposed the Florida law that’s been dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” 


Now, he’s going after Advanced Placement courses and the SATs.

After the group that administers the SAT test and sets Advanced Placement curricula said the DeSantis administration “slandered” its new AP African-American Studies course, DeSantis suggested this week that he’d attempt to move Florida away from the College Board programs entirely. 

“AP is kind of with the College Board. Who elected them?” DeSantis said during a Tuesday press conference. “Are there other people that provide services?” 

“It’s not clear to me that this particular operator is the one that’s going to need to be used in the future,” DeSantis added. 

Over the last several decades, the College Board’s programs have become woven into the fabric of the college admissions process. Most colleges require standardized tests scores of some kind for admission, and the SAT is the most popular by a significant margin. In the 2021-22 school year, 1.7 million students in the U.S. took the SAT, including more than 190,000 students in Florida, according to the College Board

By contrast, 1.35 million students in the U.S. took the ACT college entrance exam in 2022. In Florida, 87 percent of students in the class of 2022 took the SAT, according to the College Board, while 46 percent of Florida students graduating between 2013 and 2022 took the ACT, according to the ACT.  


In 2022, more than 200,000 Florida students took Advanced Placement classes, and more than 363,000 AP tests were administered in the state that year—making the state third in the country behind only California and Texas, according to the College Board. High scores on AP exams offer students the chance for students to receive college credit while they’re in high school, thus reducing the length and cost of their college education. 

Florida, like most other states, pays the $97 AP exam fee administered in public schools. In 2021, this generated revenue of more than $35 million for the nonprofit College Board, according to Slate. DeSantis said Tuesday, however, that the College Board is “providing services, and so you can either utilize those services or not.” 

“They have provided these AP courses for a long time, but… there are probably some other vendors who may be able to do that job as good or maybe even a lot better,” DeSantis said. It’s unclear how DeSantis would go about actually banning schools from using College Board programs. 

In the past, DeSantis has used these programs to boast about his administration’s record on education. During his 2021 State of the State address as evidence for improvements in education, the Florida governor said that the College Board had “released data showing that Florida ranks no. 2 in the nation in the percentage of graduating seniors who have passed Advanced Placement exams.” 


But DeSantis’s latest front in his war on what he’s termed as “woke” education has been the pilot AP African-American Studies course, which he banned from Florida schools because it taught concepts such as Black Lives Matter. 

The College Board then released an updated curriculum earlier this month that the DeSantis administration eagerly took credit for. But over the weekend, the nonprofit accused the administration of lying about the content of the class and the state’s communication with the College Board about the course. The College Board also apologized for not fighting DeSantis’s characterization of the course more forcefully. 

“We deeply regret not immediately denouncing the Florida Department of Education’s slander, magnified by the DeSantis administration’s subsequent comments, that African American Studies ‘lacks educational value,’” the College Board said in a statement Saturday. “Florida is attempting to claim a political victory by taking credit retroactively for changes we ourselves made but that they never suggested to us.” 

DeSantis said Tuesday that Florida has other options for students to receive college credit, including dual enrollment at high school and colleges, or programs like International Baccalaureate. “I don’t think anyone should be concerned about our high school students having opportunities, they absolutely will,” DeSantis said. 

But the IB Diploma Programme for high school students, while known for being academically rigorous, is offered at far fewer schools in the U.S.—just 942 nationwide, according to the organization. In Florida alone, more than 1,000 schools offered AP classes in 2022

The president of the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers’ union, slammed DeSantis’s suggestion Tuesday and said it would hamper educational opportunities for Florida kids. 

“I want my daughter to be able to take AP classes, and for the governor to say he’s going to get in the way of that because he has a political agenda ahead of my own kids’ best interest, that’s wrong,” FEA president Andrew Spar told Orlando-based WESH Tuesday. “Every parent should be upset that the governor is playing politics with their child’s education.”

Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.