Letter: Funding for vision screenings is vital

When Legislators finished their budgets in April, they appropriated $96,138 to Prevent Blindness Iowa — an organization that provides vision screenings, training and financial support to help Iowans see better. PBI is particularly focused on children’s vision screenings, which provides a great return on investment.

Visual functioning is a strong predictor of academic performance in school age children. Over 80,000 children in Iowa schools have some vision problem that impacts their ability to learn. The Department of Education spends $6,646 per year to educate a student. The cost of just one child repeating a grade level due to an undetected and untreated vision problem from each of Iowa’s 333 school districts would cost the state well over $2 million. The appropriation is just a fraction of the costs to educate children whose vision impairments go undetected.

The Legislature understood this and directed the Department of Public Health to disburse $96,138 to PBI to ensure Iowa kids can see and learn. Former Gov. Terry Branstad signed the appropriation bill. However, the Department of Public Health decided to eliminate PBI’s appropriation and those of many other nonprofit groups that provide important services to Iowans.

The Iowa Legislature and Branstad recognize a child’s ability to learn is connected to good vision. We hope that Gov. Kim Reynolds will do the right thing and rectify this situation.

Philip Blumberg

President

Prevent Blindness Iowa

West Des Moines

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