SACRAMENTO, Calif.—Legislation proposed in California would require that students in certain grades have a comprehensive eye exam that is reviewed by an optometrist, ophthalmologist or other physician.

State assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) introduced the proposal, which officially is AB 1110, last month. It would amend Section 49455 of the state’s Education Code.

A hearing on the proposal is scheduled for today by the Education Committee, according to a spokeswoman for the California Optometric Association (COA).  COA and VSP Vision Care have both offered their support to the bill.

Under the existing California law, a school nurse or other authorized person is permitted to assess students’ vision beginning in their kindergarten year, or when they first enroll in elementary school, and again in grades 2, 5 and 8, according to the proposed legislation. The proposed legislation also would require the school nurse, or other authorized person, to appraise a pupil’s vision during the kindergarten year, or upon first entry in elementary school, if the parent or guardian does not provide results of the eye and vision examinations to the school.

In a statement issued upon the bill’s introduction, Burke noted that vision tests currently administered in schools are not sufficient to detect disorders such as binocular vision deficiencies, which can impede reading, nor do they look into the eye for serious concerns like diabetes or eye cancers. Only a comprehensive eye exam, administered by a physician or optometrist, can detect the full range of disorders that affect children’s learning and screen for significantly disabling conditions.

In a letter to Assemblywoman Burke, VSP Vision Care president Kate Renwick-Espinosa noted that the benefits company believes eye exams are “extremely important for our youngest Californians,” who may encounter difficulty in school if they have vision problems. “This bill will help support the health and success of children by ensuring all children receive a comprehensive eye exam,” Renwick-Espinosa wrote.

In a separate letter, COA legislation and regulation committee chairman David Redman, OD, wrote that the proposed “legislation will serve as a safety net to ensure every child has his or her full potential to learn and perform in school.”

He added, “The current school vision screening process is not working; too many of California’s children are slipping through the cracks.”

The exam would include tests for distance and near visual acuity, eye tracking, binocular vision, skills including both eye teaming and convergence, accommodation, color vision, depth perception, intraocular pressure, pupil evaluation, objective and subjective refraction, and eye health evaluations, according to the legislation.

The proposal would prohibit a school from denying admission or acting against any pupil whose parent or guardian does not provide the results of the eye exam.