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News Release
Vision Screening Bill Will Help Struggling Students - 01/14/19


CONTACT: Doug Thompson or Nicole Mandarano at (503) 413-7399


Vision Screening Bill Will Help Struggling Students

New Bill will sustain resources to cover vision screening for Oregon's students

PORTLAND, January 14, 2019 – 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.

Oregon Senate Bill 152 and 289 will be introduced in January and is designed to increase the level of funding to cover vision screenings for students in public school districts and preschools statewide.

“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, a chief co-sponsor of the bill. “Once a student begins to believe that he or she is not able to keep up in school – even though with vision correction they would be doing just fine – it can have a devastating impact on their academic future and career prospects. Sometimes, it turns out, a student is far more capable than their performance shows, but vision correction makes all the difference in the world. This bill will help school districts identify vision issues early to help keep kids on the right path.”

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 allows 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. Gifts and outside grants can be used to supplement the account, which will include $1 million in state funding. Senate Bill 152 and 289 will increase the Vision Health Account to $2 million per biennium, enough to cover 70% of Oregon students Kindergarten through 8th grade.

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 will be a real win for Oregon's children!"

As part of its ‘2020 Vision’ plan, the Oregon Lions Sight & Hearing Foundation is proud to announce that it will be going back to the Oregon Legislature this month to seek a larger appropriation for the 2019-2021 biennium to ensure that ALL of 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.

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