By Jane Meredith Adams
It was a good week for the 90 students at Merritt Trace Elementary School in San Jose who climbed into a mobile eye exam van and emerged with the promise of a free pair of eyeglasses. But for thousands of students across the state who need glasses but don’t have them, it was another blurry week of not seeing the blackboard or the letters in a book.
Effective Jan. 1, two new state laws will clarify and expand the protocol for mandatory vision screening of students, but they don’t address the crux of a major children’s health conundrum: ensuring that students who fail the vision test actually get eyeglasses.
As many as 1 in 4 students in kindergarten through 12th grade has a vision problem, according to the American Public Health Association, but in some California schools, the majority of students in need of glasses don’t receive them, researchers said. In a 2011 study of 11,000 low-income 1st-graders in Southern California, published in the Journal of Public Health Management and Practice, 95 percent of students who needed eyeglasses didn’t have them, one year after their mandatory kindergarten vision screening.