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Crucial vision bill signed into law

Summary

Councilmember Kathy Lambert leads the charge to make Washington the 4th state to require near vision screening for children. The law goes into effect this summer.

Story

A 17 year struggle has come to an end with the signing into law of Senate Bill 6245, a bill requiring near vision screening of students whenever distance screening is required.

The path to passage of SB 6245 contained all aspects normally associated with a spy novel, including hostage taking (my bill didn’t pass, so yours isn’t going to either), financial considerations (fiscal notes differing by $14 million – actual cost $7,000), availability of key personnel (nurses are too busy) and behind the scenes intrigue (Superintendent of Public Instruction asking the Governor to veto the bill).

Despite these obstacles, the bill is now law. Washington is the 4th state to require this kind of testing. Kentucky and Illinois have working laws and California passed a law last year and is now beginning implementation.

“I was so excited to participate in this bill signing,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “It brings to an end the 17 year fight to bring near vision screening to all Washington State students.”

Studies have indicated that near vision screening can help students see and read properly. The King County Juvenile Center did a three-year study of the children in custody and 80-percent were not able to see properly. Proper screening and the resulting corrective measures can prevent many of the adverse situations that result when students are unable to read or see.

Recent studies have included one by Dr. Ben Winters in Yakima where he found that 31% of LaSalle High School had undetected vision problems. An AmeriCorps project on the Yakama Reservation along with a UW School of Public Health capstone report also found significant issues. Additionally, UW Bothell students, led by Professor Bill Erdly, have developed vision screening tools and therapies.

“The fiscal note for this bill was very small because school nurses and parent volunteers can do this test with minimal equipment as part of their testing regimen,” said Lambert. “I’m looking forward to many students being identified and soon able to see clearly and thereby be more successful at reading. I’m so grateful for all those who stood together to work and testify on this bill. It truly was a growing, caring and bipartisan team effort.”
“Each one of us can also do our part by making sure all children are prepared. Ask yourself the basic question, ‘Do I really know if this child can see?’ For those who have never seen properly, they won’t know what they’re missing and proper testing is vital. Let’s make sure all kids can see as it’s a major tool for their success!”

The bill becomes effective 90 days after the Legislature’s adjournment and passed the House 96-1 and the Senate 48-1.

The second annual Educating Young Eyes (EYE) Symposium will be held on November 4, 5 at the UW Bothell campus. Among its focuses will be implementation of SB 6245.
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