The Senate Education Committee took a look at Sen. Alice Johnson’s bill (SF 334) Wednesday which would require a comprehensive vision exam as a part of the early childhood screening process. Proponents shared stories of students’ vision issues that were not identified until later in life and eventually became barriers to learning in school.
Opponents testified that this bill is not needed since children are currently screened for vision and referred for a full-vision screening as needed. School nurses support a full screening as needed but do not support amending the preschool screening process statute. Preschool screening is the child’s first stop to a long journey in public schools and the current process addresses screening in physical health and dental as well.
MSBA pointed out that there would be additional costs to an already underfunded program and that this would be a new mandate for our school districts. The common sense approach to this issue would be to have full-vision screening as a part of the child’s regular wellness doctor visits — since it is now covered under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Under the ACA, children have direct and free access to their local eye doctor for comprehensive eye examination, follow-up care and treatment, including glasses, if needed.
“A historic day” were the first words during Wednesday’s hearing from Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius. Cassellius was surrounded by tribal leaders and American Indian students to celebrate the seven policy and finance recommendations of the 2015 Indian Education Working Group. She pointed out the Minnesota Constitution requires a uniform education system, but that this dream has not materialized for Minnesota’s Native American students. Cassellius said equitable and adequate education services and funding must be addressed to include American Indian communities and students.
Tribal leaders and students called this a “story of hope” and encouraged the Legislature to build hope by providing equitable funding for Native American students.
Sen. Roger Chamberlain had two dyslexia-related bills. One proposal (SF 271) would expand the reading tax credit to include dyslexia as a specific learning disability. The second bill (SF 278) would include the definition of dyslexia and specific intervention strategies for dyslexia in a school district’s literacy plan. If this proposed plan is not followed, school district’s literacy revenue would be withheld.