Discrepancies over the state’s voluntary pre-kindergarten program

It’s a free program paid by the state. But do pre-schools that offer voluntary pre-kindergarten classes have the right to deny your child if you do not pay for before and aftercare?

Walk into Bestday Child Care Children Center in San Carlos Park. A person can see why 4-year-olds might want to stay all day long in its classroom.

But Kimberlee Miller, owner of Bestday Child Care Center, said the critical part of the voluntary pre-kindergarten (VPK) is the program is only a few hours a day, and it is free. It is about doing justice for the kids.

“I was a kindergarten teacher,” Miller said. “I know that if the kids don’t have exposure to learning before kindergarten, they suffer. And they’re behind.”

That is part of the state’s agreement with VPK providers. Parents will get vouchers for the free service and the government will reimburse the school.

“We also are not allowed to charge fees,” Miller said. “We’re not allowed to charge registration fees for supplies. They say this is a free service and they legit mean a free service.”

But one worried mom spoke to WINK News after two Collier County pre-schools denied VPK admission to her child. She wants to know why they were not allowed in if they did not pay extra for before and aftercare, which is also called a wraparound. Comments on Facebook show this mom is not the only one hearing that.

“It is kind of shocking that there are schools that are saying, ‘if you don’t come for wrap around you can’t come at all,'” Miller said.

The schools told us that the voucher acts more like a coupon, providing a discount on tuition. Without a “free” option, like the VPK program is designed to be.

“To turn kids away because they aren’t going to use wraparound care,” Miller said, “I think it’s sad.”

For more information about VPK, Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida’s website.

Reporter:Anika Henanger
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