AUGUSTA — Maine lawmakers could end up funding Maine’s online Advanced Placement program that’s run out of money. 

The Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee held a hearing Wednesday on a Republican bill to fund the $150,000-a-year program, which was previously funded by a statewide laptop initiative. 

Education officials said the program’s contract ends in June. 

Several parents and students argue the program benefits high-performing teenagers seeking an academic challenge and a leg up in competitive college admissions with free, rigorous courses their schools don’t offer. 

But education officials question the program’s effectiveness and say online early college courses through public universities are also available. 

Roughly 390 students signed up for the program in the 2017-2018 year, with half completing Advanced Placement courses. 

But the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Matt Pouliot, said that data only shows how rigorous Advanced Placement courses are. The state education department has said it doesn’t know how many students overall don’t complete AP courses. 

The education department and state superintendents’ association didn’t take a position on the bill Wednesday, according to Pouliot, while the Maine school board association testified in support. A representative of Maine’s education agency said if the program moves forward, the state should consider providing local mentors to help students taking online AP courses. 

Lawmakers who are weighing the two-year, $8 billion budget proposal could consider funding the bill. 

“By eliminating this AP 4 All program, we’re eliminating the opportunity many students have, particularly those in rural or economically disadvantaged school districts from having high quality learning opportunities,” Pouliot said. 

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