As part of the Early Childhood Initiative, the Kentucky General Assembly enacted HB 706, effective July 15, 2000. One section of HB 706 requires all children entering public preschool, kindergarten, Head Start or public school for the first time to have an eye examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist no later than January 1 of the school year.
1. Why was this law passed?
In studying early childhood development, the Kentucky General Assembly identified problems with vision as an important factor limiting children’s abilities to learn and succeed. Up to 13% of children birth to 5 years of age have some type of vision condition. This increases to 25% of children above age 5. This provision of House Bill 706 is an effort to ensure that Kentucky’s children have their eyes examined in their early years.
2. Will the screening by a pediatrician or other medical professional meet this requirement?
No, HB 706 requires a vision examination by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
3. What is the difference between a screening and an examination?
An examination is much more extensive than a screening. Many eye conditions that can impact a child’s ability to see and learn can be missed during screening. Specialized equipment and the professional specialty training of the optometrist or ophthalmologist enable him or her to make definitive diagnosis of problems and prescribe treatment.
4. Can the examination be done at the Health Department?
Not generally. Health Departments generally are not equipped nor do they have optometrists or ophthalmologists on staff to do a complete eye examination.
5. What happens to children of families who do not meet the January 1 deadline? Are there penalties for non-compliance? Will these children be able to return to school?
It is NOT the intent of HB 706 to remove children from school. Like the requirements for school physical examinations, the law requiring the eye exam prescribes no penalties for parents. Local district policy should determine how parents or guardians will be given the guidance and assistance needed to get the examination. School health coordinators, Head Start programs, Family Resource and Youth Service Centers, local Health Departments and local ophthalmologists and optometrists should be enlisted in the effort to see that all children receive the required eye exam.
6. If a child’s eyes are examined as a toddler, will that meet the requirement?
Any complete eye exam done any time prior to the child’s entry into school will meet the requirement. The exam needs to be reported on the Kentucky Eye Examination Form for School Entry. If a child has had an eye exam prior to 3 years of age, it is recommended , but not required to have another eye exam at 5 years of age to determine whether vision has changed.
7. Are eye exams required for the children of adults enrolled in family education and family literacy programs?
Infants and toddlers whose family is enrolled in family education and family literacy programs are not generally considered to be enrolled in public school and will not need the eye exam to participate.
Preschool and kindergarten children whose parents are enrolled in family education and family literacy programs will need the eye exam if their enrollment in the public preschool or public school is part of the program design.
8. What about young children 3, 4 and 5 years old who attended school last year (1999-2000) only a short time, then dropped out and now are starting school again this year? Will they need to have the eye exam?
If a child was enrolled last year (1999-2000) and dropped out, that child is not considered a new enrollee this year (2000-2001) and will not have to have the eye exam. However, if a child is enrolled in a Head Start or state-funded public school preschool program this year (2000-2001) and leaves the program without a vision exam, that child will need to have a vision exam upon entry into the school for the coming year.
9. When a child attends a private preschool but receives support services from a public school teacher, does that child need to have this exam? What about a child on home-based services?
Children not attending public school do not need to have the school vision exam (or the physical exam), until they begin attending public school.
10. What about children who come from private schools and enroll in public school?
Because they are considered new enrollees in public school, students who come from private schools and enter public school will need the eye exam (and the physical exam) regardless of age.
11. Are vision exams performed by ophthalmologists and optometrists outside the state of Kentucky acceptable? Will it be required that out of state ophthalmologists and optometrists use Kentucky’s form?
Parents who are enrolling their children in Kentucky schools may choose to use ophthalmologists and optometrists outside Kentucky to perform the eye exam, but the exam must be reported on the Kentucky Eye Examination for School Entry. This is similar to the procedures for the physical exam.
12. If a student enters public school during the school year, when do they have to comply with the eye exam requirement?
If a family enrolls their child after the beginning of the school year but before January 1, they would have to get the eye exam by January 1 of that school year. If the child enters after January 1, the family has until the following January to comply.
13. Is there financial assistance available to help pay for these exams?
Yes. Medicaid and Kentucky’s Child Health Insurance Program (KCHIP) cover these services, as do many private insurance plans. For more information about other programs available to help families meet this financial obligation contact the Kentucky Optometric Association at (502) 875-3516 or visit their website (http://www.kyeyes.org/).
14. How are we going to meet the needs of children who have no insurance, Medicaid or KCHIP?
The Early Childhood Initiative (HB 706) has set aside funds to assist children who are neither Medicaid nor KCHIP eligible, or whose families do not have the resources to pay for the cost of the eye exam. The Division of Early Childhood is working to establish a mechanism for the distribution of these funds.
Schools may contact the Kentucky Optometric Association at (502) 875-3516 or visit their web site (http://www.kyeyes.org/) for more information on the Kentucky Vision Project, which offers free eye exams and glasses to low income families. Schools may also refer parents to their local Lions club for assistance. Parents will pay for the exam if no other payer source is available.
15. If a child entering public school is discovered to have an eye problem, how can schools help parents to meet the need for further medical treatment?
The mission of Kentucky’s schools is to help all children learn. The removal of barriers to learning is one certain way to help children achieve and is a requirement for Kentucky schools, often implemented through the school’s Family Resource and Youth Services Center. Early diagnosis and treatment of visual problems before the age of 5, when they are more easily corrected, can help to prevent early school failure.
- Families, schools and the schools’ Family Resource and Youth Services Centers should combine efforts and resources with Head Start, local Health Departments, local ophthalmologists and optometrists to see that all children receive the required eye exam and any needed follow-up.
- As needed, school district staff should help eligible families apply for and receive their Medicaid and KCHIP cards as part of school enrollment.
- School district staff should maximize the use of the Kentucky Vision Project, local Lions Clubs and any other local resources available to help.
- If challenging vision problems are discovered, schools and communities may draw upon resources across the state including the Kentucky School for the Blind at (502) 897-1583 and Visually Impaired Preschool Services (VIPS) at (502) 636-3207.