The Florida Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program is supposed to make the school transition easier for children, but the parents of one little girl says it's failing families whose children have special needs.
Brian and Carolyn Binker were thrilled to find out they were having a baby girl, but found out at birth things weren't going to be easy for their daughter.
Brian Binker: "Delaney was born with a genetic disease called Cystic Fibrosis that affects mostly the pulmonary and digestive systems."
The first years of Delaney's life were spent in hospitals and visiting doctors.
Brian Binker: "She's almost five and she's probably taken almost 50,000 pills in her life."
Her medical condition took a toll, physically and emotionally.
Brian Binker: "She has a short temper. And she tends to want to play by herself rather than with other kids."
They enrolled her in nursery school hoping it would help her become more social. The next step should have been Florida's Free Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Program called VPK, but no one thought she was ready.
Brian Binker: "It was decided by the professionals at the school, the psychologists that we went to, and also the behavioral therapists that we went to, that the best thing would be to hold her back again in nursery."
When enrollment came around for this school year, Delaney was ready.
Brian Binker: "We sent in the application, and we got an e-mail back saying she was being denied because of her age."
The state says a child needs to be 4 by Sept. 1 to get into VPK. Delaney had just turned 5.
Brian Binker: "Now, it doesn't say a maximum age. It just says they have to be 4 by Sept. 1."
The Binkers were told they could still enroll Delaney, but had to pay $2,500.
Brian Binker: "Our family is being financially penalized. The additional expense is not something we'd like to have mounted on top of the medical expenses."
Brain says the state should leave the decision to school professionals and parents who know the child best.
Brian Binker: "They want to tell us when our child should be ready to go to Pre-K. Children are not cut out of the same cookie cutter. Not every child is ready for Pre-K when they're 4 years old."
A spokesperson for the Florida Department of Education sent a statement saying it's out of their hands:
"The office of early learning has been in contact with the Binker family and has explained that since VPK was established by Constitutional mandate, the department does not have the authority to make exceptions. Any change would require Legislation to change the law."
Psychologist, Dr. Valerie Goode, says the law should be changed so parents, like the Binkers, have some say in what's best for their child.
Dr. Valerie: "It should be based on an individual basis, not this blanket rule. Not every child is ready to go to school and it's up to the parents to know when that child is ready."
The Binkers say they will figure out how to pay for school for Delaney, but will continue to fight to make sure the state isn't "failing families" in the future.
Brian Binker: "This is a fight that we're willing to take on, not just for Delaney, but for every other parent who had to make this decision."