New school vision screening laws for 2006

Teacher shows visual aids to 2 children in classroomSeveral states have legislated new laws for improved school vision screening which will take place in 2006. I’m proud that my state, Arkansas, is one of the states that is taking the lead. The Vision Council of America (VCA) reports:

Washington, D.C. (April 19, 2005) ? While medical professionals spar over the best way to help the large number of children with undiagnosed vision problems, better vision advocates in Arkansas took a more sensible approach; they worked out their differences and enacted one of the most proactive children?s vision screening laws in the country.

?We estimate that each year 200,000 children will receive an enhanced screening….

See the VCA’s entire press release about this here:
Arkansas Enacts Strong Screening & Exam Law

I think one of the things that made the Arkansas law so comprehensive was the cooperation of various specialties in it’s enactment. This new law began in 2003 with a law that established The Arkansas Commission on Eye and Vision Care of School Aged Children. This commission consists of 17 members, including optometrists, ophthalmologists, pediatricians, nurses and educators.

VCA Chair of the Board, Andrea Gluck, says ?We?re very pleased to see another example of medical professionals and educators coming together to do what?s right for the children in the state.? I agree. Being a nurse myself, I sometimes see what seems to be competition among specialists. I applaud VCA, Arkansas legislature, and other states which are taking a similar lead in working together to help our children. A copy of the new Arkansas law, which goes into effect during the 2006-07 school year, is available here.

Preschool girl at desk with crayonKentucky was the first state to require mandatory comprehensive vision screening in schools. According to a report issued in November of 2004, thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia have enacted policies that either recommend (10 states) or require (29
states and the District of Columbia) school-based vision screenings. Only one state, Kentucky, mandated comprehensive eye exams at the time of the 2004 report.

Read more to find where your state stood on this in 2004. Photo Credits are at the end of this story.

For the vision screening policy status of individual states in 2004, see this Policy Brief provided by the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools. Since the 2004 report, Arkansas and several other states such as Rhode Island and Massachusetts have passed improved vision screening laws for 2006.

Schoolgirl looks away from papters on her deskThese improvements do not come without cost, though, and there is often disagreement whenever money is being spent. A report from the Arkansas Democrat discusses the cost of this new law to Arkansas taxpayers. Scroll down near the bottom of the Arkansas Democrat item to “Vision Screening.”

One estimate says it will cost Arkansans $5.5 million statewide, or $12 a student to implement this law. A more conservative estimate from the Rogers School District says it will cost approximately $5000 for their district, roughly 39 cents per student.

Some federal funds for eye and vision screenings are available, but the school district is responsible for all remaining costs. As an Arkansas taxpayer, I feel this is money well spent whether it is 39 cents or $12 per student. When I think of the money wasted in so many areas today, this sounds like a small amount to provide our children with an opportunity to see. It is impossible to educate children unless they can get the information in.

The primary ways we communicate educational information to children is audio (hearing) and visual (seeing). The VCA’s Check Yearly website says, “Studies show that 80% of all learning during a child’s early school years is obtained through vision.” Schools already spend lots of money on special education programs. These programs are great, but how much better to discover and fix or improve the physical problem for those children we can help, so that they no longer have a special educational need.

Photo credit: Anissa Thompson

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *