NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – The University of Oklahoma has canceled their 2023 Advanced Placement Summer Institute, claiming the State Department of Education failed to sign a contract for it in a timely manner.

Heath Steele is a teacher at Edmond Memorial High School.

Steele has been an Oklahoma teacher for seven years and this will be his third year teaching Advanced Placement Social Studies.

“Looking forward to it,” said Steele.

Steele must be certified through the Advanced Placement Summer Institute (APSI) to do so.

In Oklahoma, there are two places listed on the State Department of Education’s (OSDE) website in which the APSI is offered. Those include the University of Oklahoma and Northeastern State University.

“The OSDE will not pay tuition for teachers who attend an APSI out of state. If professional learning for your course is offered out of state only, apply for an APSI scholarship through College Board. The scholarship could help lower your cost of attendance,” the OSDE’s website says.

Because of location convenience, Steele prefers OU.

“Last year I couldn’t get in [because of] too many registrants and yeah, I apparently waited too late because they filled up within like three or four days,” explained Steele.

He applied over two weeks ago for this year’s program at OU and he was accepted.

He paid a $50 registration fee.

A couple of weeks later and he received an email from OU about the course.

“I freaked out at the beginning because I thought I had made a mistake in registration and had been cancelled for some reason and that turned out to not be the case,” said Steele.

Instead, OU detailed in three paragraphs how the program would be cancelled this summer because the OSDE failed to sign a contract within a timely manner.

“As you may know, the Oklahoma State Department of Education funds the institute fee for Oklahoma teachers to be able to attend the institute without charge. Currently, we have not been able to get the contract signed by the Department of Education and have not been able to get a confirmation on the timeline on that. This has led to the delay in signing [an] agreement with our consultants and has resulted in much lower registration numbers since our primary audience is Oklahoma public school teachers. Due to the impending timing of the institute and the need to be respectful of the consultants’ time and your time, we have decided to cancel the institute for this summer,” the email reads.

A part of the email from OU to enrolled APSI participants. Image provided by Heath Steele.

Steele said he was frustrated and disappointed by the cancellation because he had gone through “a lot of vetting” before he registered.

He also told KFOR it throws a wrench in his summer plans.

“It’s difficult to find weeks throughout the summer. I work a second job in the summer, so I had already kind of planned to take off work and kind of started building my summer schedule around that, so a little bit of anger because with baseball season winding down, I’m a teacher and a coach. It was going to be some good family time and trying to work around that, scrambling a little bit, still trying to figure out, okay, well, what do I do now? Do I need to now go somewhere and out of state or can I do an online?,” said Steele.

He now wants answers as to what exactly happened between the OSDE and OU.

State Superintendent Ryan Walters answered questions from the State House Appropriations and Budget Committee on Monday.

One of those burning questions was why the OSDE didn’t sign a contract with OU to continue the APSI program this summer.

“We got an email on Monday of last week from OU that said that there is not enough applicants for the program to continue for this year. My staff began engaging with OU throughout the week to figure out, could this be salvaged? We were talking on the phone with OU leadership over the weekend to see if there anything we can push out, anything we can do to get applicants. And the decision was made by OU to cancel the program on Friday of last week,” stated Supt. Walters.

He also said he didn’t agree with the decision to cancel this year’s program.

“We told them that we didn’t agree with the decision and we’re continuing to find a way to offer the training closer to the Oklahoma City area. We’re trying the best we can to get that up and figure out any way we can to ensure that these programs can continue,” added Supt. Walters.

The OSDE was asked for a more recent statement on the cancellation.

“OU informed our agency that they would cancel the AP Summer Institute because they did not receive the appropriate number of applicants, combined with the departure of their Precollegiate Programs Manager,” said an OSDE spokesperson.

News 4 reached out to OU Wednesday morning about the program’s demand this year.

OU provided a statement, but it didn’t answer the question or the few others that were asked.

“The University of Oklahoma has long been supportive of the Advanced Placement Summer Institute. OU is not able to host the institute this summer, but we hope to host in 2024. The university will be directing teachers to other summer institutes,” said OU’s Director of Media Relations, April Sandefer.

Steele told KFOR it’s hard to believe the program was cancelled based on low enrollment.

“It was shocking to say the least, especially because it was such a good benefit. I mean, it’s $50 for a four day conference. Basically, it’s a small environment with no more than like 15 to 20 people. The size is very, very small. It’s just very useful. And I know that there are a lot of teachers out there in Oklahoma. I mean, 90% of the registrants were Oklahoma teachers anyway, at least the ones that I’ve met in my participation there. It had been utilized and there was tremendous value there. And so now people, I’m sure in smaller districts are going to have to scramble a little bit to try and find some money to send their teachers to get certified,” said Steele.

He recalled a different APSI program costing him upwards of $850 to register last summer.

Steele added he’s lucky enough to work in the Edmond school district because they were able to foot most of the bill, but he’s nervous for those who may not have that luxury.

A Northeastern State University representative confirmed with KFOR Wednesday afternoon there are available spots for most of their APSI programs this year. The only course that has filled up is Precalculus.

Steele said he’s still trying to figure out what he’s going to do, but thinks he’ll go in a virtual direction.

Refunds for any payments made will be processed to the payment form on file within four to six weeks, according to an email from OU to enrolled participants.