With many children struggling early in their school years due to undiagnosed vision issues, a simple investment has made a world of difference for thousands of Oregon’s young people.
On July 1, 2019, Oregon House Bill 5015, the Oregon Department of Education budget for the 2019-2021 biennium, passed and will become law.
It included the doubling of funding (from $1 million to $2 million) for school vision screenings for students in public school districts and preschools statewide. The funds will reimburse school districts for the costs of school vision screening under ORS 336.211. This amount per biennium is enough to cover 70% of Oregon students Kindergarten through 8th grade.
In 2017, SB 187 was unanimously approved and passed by both the Oregon House and Senate and was signed into law by Governor Kate Brown. The law provided $1 million and established the Vision Health Account and directed the Oregon Department of Education to reimburse public schools and preschool programs for costs associated with vision screening for students. It also allowed the Oregon Department of Education to designate non-profit providers to administer the screenings and adopt administrative rules for prioritizing grants if reimbursement requests exceed the allotted amount.
“As a former high school principal and teacher, I can’t overstate the value of catching vision issues early so that we can correct them and kids can work to their potential,” said Sen. Arnie Roblan, of Coos Bay. Vision is critical to a child’s ability to learn, as 80 percent of all learning during a child’s first 12 years comes through vision, according to written testimony submitted by the Oregon Optometric Physicians Association during the committee process.
That same document adds that 25 percent of school-age children have vision problems, and 60 percent of students identified as problem learners have undetected vision problems. The picture gets bleaker, according to the report, when vision problems go undiagnosed, as 70 percent of juvenile offenders have undiagnosed vision problems.
Doug Thompson, Executive Director of the Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation, said: "The passage of this law will provide funding for the annual vision screening of about 70% of Oregon’s preschool, elementary, and high school students and will help to ensure that more Oregon students who need eye exams and new eyeglasses receive them, will see better and read at grade level, and will be more likely to succeed in school and graduate from high school. This is a real win for Oregon's children!"
As part of its ‘2020 Vision’ plan, the Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation is proud to be one of the non-profit providers that ensure Oregon’s school children are able to receive annual vision screening and have a level playing field to see and learn to their full potential.
The impact is clear.
According to Dr. J.P. Lowery, OD, Med, “Good vision is vital to school success but 10-15% of Oregon students arrive on their first day at school with uncorrected vision problems, and we know this percentage is even higher among our most economically disadvantaged students. The Lions Vision Screening Program is a critical resource for schools and families throughout the state, finding correctable vision problems and, ultimately removing a significant barrier to learning for thousands of children each year.” OLSHF’s statewide screening program screens over 180,000 school children annually. Learn more at www.OLSHF.org.