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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Bomkamp Kindergarden Saga

Family, officials to discuss tuition charge

By William Croyle
Enquirer staff writer

Enquirer file

John and Shauna Bomkamp with their daughters Andrea, 9, (left) and Alison, 5. Alison skipped kindergarten and is in first grade.

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CRESCENT SPRINGS  - The parents of a 5-year-oldgirl who refuse to pay a $3,000 tuition bill will meet with schooldistrict officials to try to resolve the issue.

Johnand Shauna Bomkamp are scheduled to meet Tuesday with Kenton CountySuperintendent Susan Cook and school board president Carl Wicklund.

EdMassey, an attorney and president-elect of the Kentucky School BoardsAssociation, said he arranged the meeting and is representing thefamily for free.

"We're going to try and find a way to solve it," Massey said. "I'm doing it because I believe in their cause."

AlisonBomkamp is a first-grader at River Ridge Elementary School in VillaHills. After testing at a second-grade level three times, includingonce in June by the district, Alison skipped kindergarten this year andstarted in first grade.

But when they let thedistrict test her, the Bomkamps signed a form that said they would pay$3,000 if Alison qualified to skip kindergarten. The Bomkampsquestioned the legality of the charge, putting an asterisk next to itwith the words "still in discussion."

The tuition isthe district's policy and stems from a state law and attorney general'sopinion that says a child not 6 years old until after Oct. 1 can enrollonly in a public school's kindergarten program. Since the state onlyfunds half-day kindergarten and because the law says that's the gradeAlison should be in, the state is paying only half of her first-gradeeducation.

In August, the district asked the stateboard of education to waive the fee for Alison. The board denied therequest, citing the law and fear of setting a precedent.

Wicklundsaid the purpose of Tuesday's meeting is to find out the family'sthoughts since all he's heard has been through the media. He defendsthe district's position.

"In this case, we'refollowing the law," Wicklund said. "It was sent to the state board fortheir consideration and they denied it."

But Massey said there's room for flexibility.

"KentonCounty does not have to charge them if they don't want to," Masseysaid. "An attorney general's opinion is just that. It hasn't beenjudicially resolved."

The family ignored the first payment of $600, due Sept. 30.

OnOct. 17, Cook wrote the Bomkamps: "As per the written agreement, youagreed to make payment to Kenton County School District in the amountof $3,000."

"It all goes back to equity ineducation," Wicklund said. "If I don't waive the fee for any otherstudent, how do I do it for this one student?"

The Bomkamps argue the district provides free full-day kindergarten at two of its schools, Piner and Ryland.

"There'snothing in the state law that requires them to charge us," Shauna Bomkamp said. "They pick who they want to charge. They made a policy tocharge only intelligent children."

Parents ignore school billBy William Croyle
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CRESCENT SPRINGS  - The battle over a $3,000tuition bill between the parents of a gifted 5-year-old girl and theKenton County School District continues after the parents ignoredFriday's payment deadline.The district plans to send the family a late-payment notice.AlisonBomkamp, 5, is in first grade at River Ridge Elementary School in VillaHills. After she was tested three times at a second-grade level, Johnand Shauna Bomkamp had Alison skip kindergarten and go into first gradethis year.But the Bomkamps were told when she wastested that there would be a $3,000 tuition bill. The paper they signedto give the district permission to test Alison states that, but theBomkamps claim they questioned the legality of the charge and made anotation on that paper that it was under discussion.Thereason for the bill is a state law and 20-year-old attorney general'sopinion that says any child not 6 years old until after Oct. 1 canenroll only in a public school's kindergarten program. Since the statefunds only half-day kindergarten and Alison is in full-day first grade,only half of her education is being paid by the state.The first payment of $600 was due Friday."Theschool board or state has not contacted us as far as any decision ormovement," John Bomkamp said. "All I know is we have no intention ofpaying the bill."The district asked the Kentucky Board of Education to waive the tuition. It denied the request.Since The Enquirer first reported on this story last Saturday, Kenton County Superintendent Susan Cook said nothing has changed.E-mail

Don't penalize student for being smart
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Alison Bomkamp, a gifted 5-year-old Kenton County girlwho skipped kindergarten, is learning that her precociousness comeswith a cost.The public school bureaucracy wants tocharge Alison's parents, John and Shauna Bomkamp, $3,000 on the dubiousrationale that Kentucky only funds public school districts for half-day kindergarten, Alison jumped to all-day first grade, and $3,000 is roughly half of what it costs per year to educate a Kenton County student.Kenton County schools should waive the $3,000.TheBomkamps asked for a waiver, but in August the state board of educationturned them down. The board relied on a 20-year-old opinion of thestate attorney general that says according to the law and the child'sage, she can enroll only in kindergarten and not in first grade. Theboard also didn't want to set a "precedent."Publiceducation costs are a huge concern, but it's an even worse precedent ifschools enforce a rigid age-based policy that smacks of penalizingstudents for being bright.Was it ever the intent ofthe legislature to tell public school parents: Sure, we'll make anexception; your kid can skip a grade, but it'll cost you?Rep.Harry Moberly, D-Richmond thinks not. Moberly wrote many of theamendments to Kentucky's primary school law. He says the AG's opinionis wrong and the Bomkamps shouldn't pay the $3,000 bill. "I don't thinkthey need a waiver," Moberly said. "That's absolutely ridiculous." Ifnecessary, he says he might introduce legislation in the 2006 sessionto remove the snag from the law, but meanwhile what happens to Alisonif the Bomkamps refuse to pay? Should she be a kindergartner or afirst-grader? She actually tests at second-grade level or above.KentonPublic Schools also can be accused of imposing a double standard. Theyoffer full-day kindergarten at two schools with many "at-risk" children- and don't charge those parents for the extra half-day.Schoolingneeds to be unfailingly student-based, whether for at-risk, gifted orall those in between. The last thing schools should cling to is rigidage-based limits on students.

Parents of smart kid told to pay
Kenton County charges tuition for advancing a gradeBy William Croyle
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CRESCENT SPRINGS  - The parents of a 5-year-old girl and the Kenton County School District are battling over a $3,000 tuition bill.It's a situation caught up in bureaucracy that has left the gifted child's academic future in doubt.John and Shauna Bomkamp's daughter, Alison, is in first grade at River Ridge Elementary School in Villa Hills.Aftershe was tested twice last winter at a second-grade level by anindependent psychologist and River Ridge, Alison's parents decided tohave her skip the school's half-day kindergarten this year and startfirst grade.She was tested once more during thesummer by the district, which told the Bomkamps if Alison qualified toskip kindergarten, there would be a $3,000 tuition bill to place her ina higher grade. Alison passed the test."We agreed to have her tested, but we did not agree on the tuition," John Bomkamp said.Why a $3,000 tuition bill for a public school?That'sabout half of what it costs to educate a child in Kenton County for ayear, according to Superintendent Susan Cook. But the state only fundsdistricts for half-day kindergarten.And a20-year-old attorney general's opinion of the state's primary schoolprogram law says if a child "would not be 6 years old until after Oct.1 (as is Alison's case), the child would be eligible to enroll only ina public school's kindergarten program rather than first grade."So Alison is attending first grade for a full day, but only half of her education is paid by the state."Thedistrict is following state statute," said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman forthe Kentucky Department of Education. "The law does not give a districtflexibility on how a child tests. It's age-specific."Thedistrict appealed to the state board of education, asking for a waiverfor Alison. State Sen. Jack Westwood also fought on the family'sbehalf, but the board denied the request in August."One reason the waiver was refused was because it's state law," Gross said. "And because they didn't want to set a precedent."Westwood said he's not buying the precedent argument."Idon't think that many kids will test at a higher level each year,"Westwood said. "There has to be thinking of what can we do to help thischild get the best education."The Bomkamps say thedistrict has already set a precedent by offering free full-daykindergarten at two of its schools - Piner and Ryland. Cook said itdoes that because of the location of the schools and because many ofthe students are classified as at-risk.State Rep.Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, wrote amendments to the primary schoolprogram law in the 1990s and said the attorney general's interpretationwas wrong.He said the Bomkamps should not pay the bill and should hire a lawyer if necessary."Idon't think they need a waiver," Moberly said. "The tuition isabsolutely ridiculous. The law says kids have to be continuallyevaluated and regrouped in their best interest. The issue is, onceenrolled, what are her needs?"Cook said thedistrict could meet Alison's needs by differentiating her instruction.For example, she could take second-grade reading while in kindergarten.The Bomkamps and Westwood say the district cannot meet all her needs ina half-day.The family got the bill Sept. 17, about a month after Alison settled into her first-grade class.Cooksaid it will probably take a change in the law for the district not tocharge the Bomkamps. Moberly said he may look at doing that at the 2006General Assembly.But what happens now?Thefirst tuition installment is due Friday. Cook said she has a papersigned by the Bomkamps before the district tested Alison that says theyagreed to the payment.The Bomkamps say theyquestioned the legality of the tuition at that time and made a notationon that paper that the tuition issue was still being discussed."I'm going to protect my daughter no matter what," Shauna Bomkamp said. "We will fight it tooth and nail."Will the district remove Alison from first grade if the bill is not paid?"I would hope that we could work with the family to come to some agreement," Cook said.E-mail

Bureaucrats Gone Wild in Kenton County .                                           You see stories about how China 's economy is growing while America 's is not.                                           I have never been to China but will bet they don't have as many bureaucratic rules as we do.                                           Especially in the school systems.                                           I'm embarrassed that an example of bureaucrats gone wild occurred in my native county, Kenton County , Kentucky .                                           TheCincinnati Enquirer told the story of a brilliant pre school student.The schools gave her a test to skip kindergarten. She passed it.                                           Since she didn't need kindergarten, he parents sent her directly to the first grade.                                           The Kenton County public school system sent her parents a bill for $3000.                                           The bureaucrats want her parents to pay for the grade that she skipped.                                           There are several things wrong with this story.                                           Thefirst is that she is going to a PUBLIC school. When did PUBLIC schoolsstart charging tuition? If they are trying to make a profit, will theygive me some of my tax money back?                                           It is not just about the money.                                           Thebigger issue is that bureaucrats could be screwing up this girl's life.Children need to be challenged, especially brilliant children.                                           Dumping the student in a class beneath her abilities will bore her and could turn her off to school forever.                                           We might waste a talent that could someday cure cancer or be President.                     The fire she is showing in childhood could be doused by idiots following a stupid rule.                                           The paper pushers are not only enforcing a terrible rule, they don't understand the rule they are trying to enforce.                                           StateRepresentative Harry Moberly, who wrote the law the bureaucrats areciting, said the school board interpretation was wrong and told theEnquirer that the parents should hire a lawyer.                                           I hope they do.                                           Iknow most of the good trial lawyers in Kentucky . If the parents callme at 1-800 Mr. McNay, I will put them on to several lawyers who wouldtake the case.                                           Imight even chip in on the legal fee. I won't chip in for the tuition.The PUBLIC school system should not have charged it and I hope theparents don't pay it.                                           I don't know the parents but they live in a nice neighborhood. They can probably afford $3000.                                           Whatwould have happened if the bureaucrats pulled the stunt on a poor childthat lived in a housing project? What would have happened if the childdid not have parents with enough savvy to contact their legislators andthe media?                                           A brilliant mind could be wasted. The bureaucrats would have won.                                           Moberlysaid he might fix this problem in the next legislature session and I amsure he will. He understands that education is about pushing forwardand not holding back.                                           Iam angry that it got this far. Every person at the school board and inthe school system should be working to get the child the best educationshe can possibly get.                                           I thought that was what school was all about.                                           IfI were running the school system, I would have put her in the firstgrade at all cost. Even if I had to tear up the rule book.                                           If some paper pusher told me I was violating an idiotic rule, I would tell them to get a lawyer and sue me.                                           I think the jury would see it my way.                                           I am afraid that the incident in Kenton County is a symptom of a nationwide problem.                                           Paperpushers and bureaucrats forget that they are molding the lives of youngpeople and enforce rules that have no meaning, purpose or logicalsense.                                           Other countries aren't doing that. That is why they are eating our lunch on the economic front.                                           I hope the American school system gets it together. If they don't, they need to make sure American students learn a new skill:                                           How to eat with chopsticks. Their future employers will require it.                                       

   DonMcNay is President of McNay Settlement Group in Richmond Kentucky wherewe fight any rule that hurts people. You can write to him at  or read other things he has written at