Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Perspective: For SQ793

Over the next few days I hope to post some views in support and in opposition of different state questions that are on the ballot. Today, I will have one column from both sides of SQ 793.

Up first will be the Yes side. The No side will post around noon (at this link).

Oklahoma Kids Deserve Improved Eye Care 
By Jim Helm

One often overlooked factor in a student’s success is having access to necessary eye care so they are able to read whiteboards and concentrate in the classroom. But because of Oklahoma’s outdated optical laws, many students have trouble getting the glasses or contacts they need to participate and excel in the classroom, and in sports and other activities.

That is why supporting State Question 793, a November ballot initiative that would allow licensed optometrists to practice in retail settings, is crucial for ensuring Oklahoma families, seniors and children have access to convenient, affordable and quality vision care. 

Proper vision care is essential to helping school-aged Oklahoma children succeed in school, especially for younger learners. Uncorrected eyesight problems can create significant difficulty with everything from learning to read to understanding math. As a result, if we want to ensure young Oklahomans’ educational success, a basic step is making sure they have access to quality eye care. 

Unfortunately, Oklahoma remains one of only three states where eye care is restricted only to optometrists’ offices, which can be few and far between in some of parts of the state. Some will travel to other states such as Kansas, Texas or Arkansas to receive more affordable options. It can sometimes require lengthy drives — sometimes hours long — just to reach an eye care facility. But most economically challenged parents will not make such a drive, and it's their child who "pays the price." Lost education opportunities mean less vocational options. The problem can become generational.

Having taught in three Oklahoma school districts, I have seen students struggle simply because they have uncorrected vision problems. It came as no surprise when the National Rural Health Association called these unmet vision care needs a “growing crisis” — and one that is hitting our state’s children the hardest.

State Question 793 will give voters a chance to address this crisis by giving Oklahoma families the freedom to receive eye exams or purchase eyewear at nearby retail locations. Supporting State Question 793 will extend a crucial lifeline to families and help boost the academic success of our students. Instead of making a long drive to an optometrist’s office, parents could take their child to the nearest Target or Walmart.

There is a reason why 47 other states allow qualified optometrists to practice in retail locations. This modern, common-sense system provides meaningful savings for families on tight budgets by offering more affordable eye exams and eyewear. In fact, families shopping at retail locations saved an average of nearly $200 according to a Consumer Reports survey — giving them more resources to put toward books and school supplies.

With the help of all Oklahomans on Election Day, we can provide our students with better access to the eye care they need to perform their best in school. Our kids will be the winners!

Jim Helm
Retired Public School Teacher
Tulsa, OK


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