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Press Release - April 5, 2017

For Immediate Release

April 5, 2017

Contact:  Mike Roth, 916-444-7170

Assembly Education Committee Advances Bill to
Boost Students’ Chance to Read & Succeed

AB 1110 will Connect Children with Comprehensive Eye Exams

Sacramento — The Assembly Education Committee voted today to advance a measure to boost learning and lifelong health by connecting more California children with comprehensive eye exams and glasses.

AB 1110, by Assemblymember Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) and Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove), encourages a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist upon starting school to better detect vision disorders that can wreak havoc on a child’s ability to learn and thrive. The bipartisan bill also is co-authored by Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell) and Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove).

Vision disorders are the most prevalent disabling childhood conditions. One in four children and adolescents have a vision problem that can impede their learning, but current school-based tests fail to identify one-third of them.

“Children can’t learn when they can’t see the blackboard or textbooks clearly. This bill will help connect them with the care they need to prevent or correct eye and vision problems,” Burke said. “AB 1110 signifies a significant investment in our children’s health and education with little to no cost to California families.”

Both federal and California state laws have embraced pediatric eye care as an essential health care benefit for children, and define pediatric eye care as a comprehensive eye exam performed by eye care professionals. State law ensures all children under the age of 19 years will have comprehensive eye exams and glasses, if needed, covered through their private or public health insurance plans.

“Many parents are unaware of this benefit or of the vital role comprehensive eye exams play in their children’s health. We especially see this in communities where health costs and barriers to care put extra burdens on families,” Burke said. “The sad fact is that many young people are being wrongly labeled as kids with behavioral problems or learning disabilities, when in fact they are having difficulties because they can’t see the materials or are bothered by other vision problems.”

AB 1110 will educate, encourage and enable parents to access the comprehensive eye examinations needed to better ensure their children’s success.

"It’s common to see youth struggle to read even after ‘passing’ a school eye test. These superficial exams can fail to detect significant underlying eye conditions and do not screen for serious concerns such as diabetes or eye cancers that threaten vision and health," said David Redman, OD, Legislation and Regulation Committee Chair, California Optometric Association. “Only a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist can detect the full range of disorders that affect children’s learning and test for significantly disabling conditions. With proper diagnosis and glasses if needed, school performance often improves right away.”

“In my years in practice, I have seen lives changed when vision and eye problems are properly detected and treated. AB 1110 will provide that opportunity for even more of California’s children,” said Redman.

“California can and must do better than existing school vision screenings, which are far from sufficient in ensuring children’s vision supports their learning. Ensuring the eye health of our students is an investment in our future,” said Rachel Michelin, California State Board of Optometry. “This bill will save costs by preventing more costly and extensive eye and vision problems down the road and providing tools for more California students to succeed in their education.”

Current state law requires school vision screenings for students that test their ability to read an eye chart from a distance.

Eighty percent of learning happens through the eyes, and vision is increasingly important as today’s computer-based society places a large demand on California’s student’s eyes in the classroom and at home.

AB 1110 does not call for any additional requirements or costs to the state that do not already exist in state law.

“The real costs are the emotional and fiscal expense of failing to identify eye problems in children early in their education,” Burke said. “AB 1110 offers an important tool to ensure that the children of our state aren’t missing any opportunity to succeed.”

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