Senator Parker, Optometrists Launch Statewide Vision Initiative
Mississippi optometrists to provide no-cost eye screenings for children who failed 3rd Grade Reading Assessment
Senator David Parker is working with the Mississippi Optometric Association (MOA) and the Mississippi Vision Foundation (MVF) in a statewide initiative to provide eye exams at no-cost to the nearly 15 percent of third graders who did not pass the state reading assessment test and do not have insurance. The exams are offered through July 31.
“One of the major stumbling blocks of early childhood education is not addressing students who have vision problems. If they’re unable to see their lessons – on the board or in their books – they’re unlikely to succeed. They become easily distracted and give up on learning. Practically and metaphorically some students have no vision for their future because they can’t see in class. The third grade reading gate is designed to reach students early to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to continue successfully in school. We hope this initiative addresses a physical impairment to result in students more attentive to learning because they’re now able to see their lessons better,” said Parker who has optometry practices in Olive Branch and Horn Lake and is the only optometrist in the Mississippi legislature.
Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves joined in the announcement of the initiative at the Mississippi Children’s Museum in Jackson on Monday. “Improving the reading abilities of Mississippi schoolchildren is going to be a community effort, and this is an example of how we have to pull together to make sure our third graders are reading well,” Reeves said. “I appreciate optometrists across the state donating their time and skills to see if some of these students who are struggling have vision problems.”
While there are many issues that can affect a child’s inability to read and comprehend, one of those issues can be a vision problem. Statistics show that 25 percent of all school age children have vision problems and more than 80 percent of those do not get the help they need.
State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright said, “I have often said that it takes everyone – parents, educators and communities- working together to help students become successful readers. I appreciate the Mississippi Optometric Association’s initiative that will ensure students are not hindered from reaching their full potential because of poor eyesight.”
For students who are covered through private insurance, applicable co-pays may apply due to laws that require the doctor to collect this amount. All children, regardless of their family’s ability to pay, will be seen by ODs participating in the program. The MVF, working with industry partners, will cover the costs for student who needs an exam.
“The MOA and its Foundation are pleased to be a part of making a difference in the lives of these students and we are committed to identifying those students who have vision problems,” said Dr. Tonyatta Hairston, MOA Secretary-Treasurer and MVF Board of Directors member. “We are also happy to announce that our industry partners are working with us to provide glasses free of charge to any student whose eye test reveals the need for corrective lenses”
To locate a participating optometrist, parents of eligible third graders should go to www.msvisionfoundation.org or call 601.572.0845. When making the appointment, parents should tell the receptionist they are scheduling the third grade eye appointment. They should bring the letter notifying them that their child did not pass the assessment test with them to the appointment.
Senator David Parker is an optometrist in Olive Branch. He was elected to the Senate in 2012 and serves on the Senate Economic Development Committee, Elections Committee, Judiciary-A Committee, Housing Committee, and Public Health & Welfare Committee. He and his wife Ashleigh have four children: Allie, Jack, Luke and Jude.
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