TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner commended the Governor today for signing her bill, S-2448, which will establish a pilot program to detect vision impairments in second-grade students.
“The current vision screenings conducted in schools are not nearly comprehensive enough to pick up many of the vision-related learning problems. If we wait until these students show some sign that they are falling behind in school before conducting these more thorough screenings, then we are already too late,” explained Senator Turner.
Senator Turner further explained, “This is a situation where being proactive can not only provide a huge benefit to these children, but save our schools a significant amount of money.”
The new law will require the Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, to establish a three-year comprehensive eye examination pilot program for second grade students in three New Jersey school districts. The districts would be selected so that there is one district in each of the northern, central and southern regions of the State as well as a rural, a suburban and an urban district.
Under the bill, the comprehensive eye examination would include a child’s history, external and ophthalmoscope examination, visual acuity, ocular alignment and motility, refraction, and assessment of accommodation and binocular vision performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
“Vision problems in young children can prove to be a significant educational barrier, especially as they develop early reading skills. When these problems go undiagnosed and untreated, they can often lead to an erroneous special education classification,” said Senator Turner, D-Mercer and Chair of the Senate Education Committee.
“The key to addressing this problem is to detect these problems at an early age and help students to overcome them so that they can continue to learn with minimal interruption,” added Senator Turner.
A “Comprehensive Eye Examination Fund” will be created in the Department of Education to help parents pay for the costs of the eye exam not covered by medical insurance.
Additionally, the Department of Education will be required to collect data from each of the pilot districts on the impact of the program on reducing special education classification and report to the Governor and Legislature on the effectiveness of the pilot program in reducing the number of classified students.