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Thursday, November 03, 2005

First Grader Won't Pay


Enclosed is an article from the Cincinnati Enquirer about the Bomkamp family.  I wrote a column about them a couple of months ago and hope that the legislature will make this a high priority in the next session.




1st-grader stays, won't pay
Parents, schools work out tuition-free solution




CRESCENT SPRINGS - The parents of a 5-year-old girl who refused to pay a $3,000 tuition bill appear to have won their battle.

John and Shauna Bomkamp and Kentucky state Sen. Jack Westwood met Tuesday with Kenton County School District officials to try to settle the issue.

They agreed on a pilot program that will allow Alison Bomkamp to stay in first grade, free of charge, while both sides push for legislation that would prevent this circumstance from happening again.

The Kenton school board has to approve the measure later this month, which both sides expect will happen.

"I'm happy that we're working to change the law," Shauna Bomkamp said. "But I'm not happy that we had to go through all this. It didn't have to be this way."

Alison skipped kindergarten and entered first grade this year at River Ridge Elementary School in Villa Hills after testing three times at a second-grade level. But the Bomkamps were told there would be a $3,000 tuition charge for her to enter first grade early.

The reason? A state law and attorney general's opinion that says a child not 6 years old until after Oct. 1 can enroll only in a public school's kindergarten program.

Since the state funds only half-day kindergarten, just half of Alison's first-grade education is being paid for by the state.

The district appealed to the state board of education, asking for a waiver for Alison. The board denied it, citing fear of setting a precedent.

But the Bomkamps still refused to pay the tuition.

One thing the two sides did agree on was that the root of the problem was the law.

"We need legislation that will recognize a child's learning level and provide the necessary funding," said Kenton Superintendent Susan Cook.

"We wouldn't want to work on a waiver every year."

Westwood said he will help work on that legislation.

"The easiest thing to do is clarify the law," Westwood said. "Kids need to get the appropriate education for their abilities."

Shauna Bomkamp said she will also help, even if it means speaking at the 2006 General Assembly.

"I'll help anyway I can."