Senator Chris Coons and Vision To Learn Founder Austin Beutner Speak About the Crisis in Eye Care for School-Age Children
Estimates are 3-4 million public school children lack the glasses they need. Delaware has led the nation in addressing this issue. Boeing announces multi-state support for Vision To Learn, including $100,000 to help kids in Delaware.
WILMINGTON, Del., June 13, 2023 (Newswire.com) - Senator Chris Coons and Vision To Learn Founder Austin Beutner highlighted the need to provide vision care for public school children at an event today that recognized the work of Vision To Learn in Delaware. Senator Coons emphasized the critical role of vision health in academic success and how programs like Vision To Learn can help address widespread disparities in access to care.
"My mother and I were proud to help bring Vision To Learn to Delaware so students who are in need of glasses receive them to help them achieve their full potential, because improving the vision of a child opens up an entire new world to them," Senator Coons said. "Vision To Learn has already helped thousands of Delaware's kids with vision exams and glasses, and this grant will enable them to continue expanding their services for vision-impaired children across the state. I can't wait to see the good work they'll continue to be able to do with this new investment."
Senator Coons called on federal and state leaders around the country to follow Delaware's lead by taking additional steps to identify student eye care needs, developing statewide plans to address disparities in child vision care, and utilizing available federal and state funding to support school-based vision care.
Experts estimate three to four million children across the country go to school every day unable to see the board or pages of a textbook clearly. About one in four children will naturally need glasses. Children who need glasses and don't have them are more likely to be misdiagnosed with behavioral issues in kindergarten, be labeled "slow" learners by 5th grade, and drop out of high school. Unfortunately, in low-income urban and rural communities, most children who need glasses don't have them due to financial constraints, language barriers, unresponsive health bureaucracies or the simple fact there are no eye care professionals in their neighborhood.
Over the last decade, nonprofit charity Vision To Learn has worked to address the "glasses gap" by providing vision screenings, eye exams and glasses to kids where they are most days - at their neighborhood school. With a fleet of mobile vision clinics staffed with trained and licensed eye care professionals, Vision To Learn has helped ensure 2.3 million students across the country received vision screenings and provided more than 380,000 with glasses, all at no cost to the child or their family.
An estimated 10,000 kids in Delaware are going without the glasses they need to see the board, read a book, or participate fully in class. Since 2014, Vision To Learn has provided over 80,000 students with vision services, including providing more than 13,700 with glasses, at 183 schools and community organizations throughout the state.
Across the country, Vision To Learn has found about 27% of school students need glasses, but more than 80% of those who need them don't have them. This school year in Delaware, an estimated 35% of students did not pass a vision screening.
"By helping millions of children across the country, Vision To Learn has demonstrated a school-based solution to the problem can be both cost-effective and scalable," VisionTo Learn Founder Austin Beutner said. "But millions more children still need help. It's time for federal and state leaders to take action to help make sure every child in every school, everywhere in the country, has the glasses they need to succeed in school and in life."
Coons and Beutner highlighted several steps Vision To Learn's program in the "First State" has taken to help ensure school children have the glasses they need.
- Screening of every student in all grades at participating public schools.
- Mobile optometry services are provided at schools in low-income communities.
- Coordination and data sharing between state, Medicaid plans and VTL to find appropriate patient information for reimbursement.
- First in the nation Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). HealthServices Initiative (HSI) to provide funding to supplement Medicaid.
The Bayard School at Pulaski is one of over 180 schools and community organizations served by Vision To Learn in Delaware. 232 students at Bayard were provided with a vision screening, 62 did not pass the screening and were provided with an eye exam, and 54 students were provided with glasses - all at no charge to students or their families.
Vision To Learn's work in Delaware is supported by The Boeing Company, which presented Mr. Beutner and the organization with a $100,000 check on Tuesday. This grant builds on The Boeing Company's recent funding of Vision To Learn's program in South Carolina. "At Boeing, we are committed to investing in programs that help students of all backgrounds achieve their full potential," said John Lyons, Senior Engineering Director for The Boeing Company. "We are proud of this partnership with Vision To Learn for exemplifying that commitment by bringing vision services to students in high-need, underrepresented communities."
The Boeing Company's support of Vision To Learn is aligned with its mission to boost "tomorrow's innovators" through early learning and K-12 educational interventions. Providing access to free vision screenings, eye exams and glasses to students who are most in need will help improve students' academic and life outcomes.
The impact of providing glasses to children at schools is shown in a study published in The Journal for the American Medical Association Ophthalmology by researchers from the Center for Research and Reform in Education and the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
The researchers conducted the largest and most rigorous study in the U.S. about the connection between glasses and academic achievement by comparing students' standardized test scores before and after receiving glasses from Vision To Learn. Thousands of children from more than 100 schools in Baltimore participated in the study. The children who received glasses did much better in school and the impacts were greater than more costly measures such as lengthening the school day, providing computers, or creating charter schools. The children who showed the biggest gains, the equivalent of an additional four to six months of learning, were those who are often the hardest to help—students in the bottom quarter of their class academically and students with learning differences and disabilities.
Other states following Delaware's lead would help children everywhere get the help they need at school. Sadly, in many parts of the country, outdated rules, inflexible school bureaucracies, reluctant insurance companies and unresponsive Medicaid administrators are still standing in the way. It's up to federal and state leaders to get engaged and make this possible in every school across the country.
A national effort should start with the federal government encouraging states to set consistent, high standards for vision screenings. Currently, some states require screenings in most school grades while others do not require that a child be provided with one at all. The answer is simple; every child should receive a vision screening at a school every year. It's quick, easy and relatively inexpensive.
Then all states should follow the example of Delaware, California, South Carolina, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and others where Vision To Learn has worked to update laws and rules to make it possible for children who do not pass a vision screening to receive a proper eye exam at school.
And finally, federal and state Medicaid officials need to make sure the funding is in place to cover the costs. They need to get tough with insurers to make sure the coverage system is working as Congress intended. Medicaid along with the Children's Health Insurance Program can pay for it. Democrats and Republicans have been united on this issue since Medicaid was passed in 1965—a child from a family living in poverty should be provided with proper eye care.
Federal health and education officials can tie this all together by establishing the goal that every school child who needs glasses should have them. All 50 states need to publicly share their plan to make sure at least 90% of school children have the glasses they need by the start of the 2024 school year. When children come to school, they're provided with food, textbooks and much of what they need to get the most out of their education. Glasses should be on the list.
About Vision To Learn
Vision To Learn, a non-profit charity, was founded in 2012 by Austin Beutner and the Beutner Family Foundation. The program has helped children in more than 750 low-income communities in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Vision To Learn serves the needs of the hardest-to-reach children; about 90% of kids served by Vision To Learn live in poverty and about 85% are Black and Latino. Vision To Learn has helped ensure more than 2.3 million children received a vision screening and provided more than 380,000 with glasses - all at no cost to the child or their family. For more information on Vision To Learn, please visit www.visiontolearn.org.
About the Boeing Company
Through purposeful investments, employee engagement and thoughtful advocacy efforts, Boeing and its employees support innovative partnerships and programs that align with the company's strategic objectives, create value and help build better communities worldwide. Boeing's efforts are focused on improving access to globally competitive learning, contributing to workforce skills and development, and supporting our military and veteran communities. As a leading global aerospace company, Boeing develops, manufactures and services commercial airplanes, defense products and space systems for customers in more than 150 countries. As a top U.S. exporter, the company leverages the talents of a global supplier base to advance economic opportunity, sustainability and community impact. Boeing's diverse team is committed to innovating for the future and living the company's core values of safety, quality and integrity. Learn more at www.boeing.com.
Source: Vision To Learn