UNIONTOWN — Parents in some school districts have complained that despite an opinion by Ohio’s attorney general that school districts can’t charge parents for all-day kindergarten, the tuition bills keep coming.
The school districts say that until the opinion, which is not legally binding, is clarified by lawmakers or the state department of education, they’ll continue the practice of charging for longer kindergarten sessions.
“We are asking our parents to continue the tuition process until we receive guidance from the Ohio Department of Education or the legislature,” said Faith Kittoe, interim superintendent of the Lake Township school district in Uniontown, about 90 miles southeast of Akron.
Parents there who pay on a quarterly installment plan owe a payment next month, she said.
The Ohio Department of Education requested the formal opinion from the attorney general after parents, claiming that all-day kindergarten is necessary for children’s intellectual growth, complained about paying tuition for a full day of kindergarten.
Lori and James Karasek, who have a 5-year-old in Lake Township schools, were one of a half dozen families in the state who filed an online complaint about the fees with Attorney General Marc Dann after his decision last month.
The Karaseks say they are dipping into their son’s college investment fund to pay his $2,000 annual kindergarten tuition.
“I’d like to save this for his college rather than pay for his kindergarten,” Lori Karasek said.
Formal opinions do not carry the weight of a court ruling or legislation, and the Ohio Department of Education does not have the authority to prevent schools from charging tuition, said agency spokeswoman Karla Carruthers.
The attorney general’s office also cannot enforce the opinion, said Kevin McIver chief of the opinions section in Dann’s office.
However, parents could use Dann’s opinion in a lawsuit, McIver said.
Ohio law mandates and gives state aid for half-day kindergarten programs. High-poverty districts such as Akron and Cleveland get extra money from the state to help pay for all-day kindergarten.
Many school districts, such as the Stow-Munroe Falls and Green school districts, have suspended collection of tuition for their all-day kindergarten programs while they wait to see if legislation is passed that would allow districts that do not receive state aid to charge tuition on a sliding scale, based on parents’ incomes.