Mo. lawmakers, physicians debate eye exam law

Four years ago, Missouri became one of the first states in the nation to require incoming kindergartners to get a comprehensive eye exam by an optometrist or physician. The goal was to catch problems early, perhaps heading off diseases that could lead to vision loss and improving academic performance.

But a Children's Vision Commission, appointed under that law to study the mandate's effectiveness, found that only a third of students were actually getting the required exams and recommended the mandate be eliminated. Now a debate is raging in the Missouri Capitol about whether eye exams should stay or go. This past week, a House committee endorsed legislation that would continue the mandate.

The law requiring the examinations allows parents to opt out of the requirement simply by submitting a form to their child's school. The commission found that most parents are doing just that. From July 2008 to June 2011, 61 percent of parents either opted out of the eye exam requirement or ignored them altogether, according to a report the commission put out last year.