ASSEMBLY, No. 3817
STATE OF NEW JERSEY
INTRODUCED DECEMBER 14, 2006
Assemblyman PATRICK J. DIEGNAN, JR.
District 18 (Middlesex)
Assemblyman PETER J. BARNES, JR.
District 18 (Middlesex)
Assemblyman JOSEPH R. MALONE, III
District 30 (Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean)
Assemblyman JOSEPH VAS
District 19 (Middlesex)
Assemblymen Egan, Prieto, Manzo, Stack, Albano, Assemblywoman Lampitt, Assemblyman Whelan, Assemblywomen Voss, Truitt, Assemblymen Chivukula, Greenwald, Conners, Senators Doria, Turner, Coniglio, Madden and Sarlo
Establishes pilot program to conduct comprehensive eye examinations for second grade students.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
As amended by the Senate on June 18, 2007.
An Act concerning comprehensive eye examinations for certain students and supplementing chapter 40 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. The Legislature finds and declares that: approximately one-half of all New Jersey students with a special education classification are classified as Specific Learning Disabled (SLD); the rate of growth in SLD classified students in recent years has been 9%, while total school enrollment has grown at only 2%; nationwide, approximately 80% of SLD students have primary difficulties with reading, and as many as 70% of those students might not have been classified if they had received appropriate early intervention; undiagnosed and untreated vision-related learning problems are significant contributors to early reading difficulties and often lead to special education classification; under current State Board of Education regulations, only one vision assessment is required by the end of grade three and that screening tests only for vision acuity; the number of children classified as requiring special education continues to increase, and once classified few students return to full-time general education; it is therefore imperative that the State takes steps to study the impact of comprehensive eye examinations for students in the primary grades to assess their impact on eliminating the special education classification of students for treatable vision-related difficulties.
2. As used in this act, “comprehensive eye examination” means an evaluation that includes a child’s history, external and ophthalmoscopic examination, visual acuity, ocular alignment and motility, refraction, and assessment of accommodation and binocular vision, performed by an optometrist or ophthalmologist.
3. a. The Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Commissioner of Health and Senior Services, shall establish a three-year comprehensive eye examination pilot program for second grade students. The purpose of the program shall be to eliminate inappropriate referrals for special education programs and services by examining students at the end of second grade for vision-related problems that may go undiagnosed and result in special education classification.
b. The commissioner shall select for participation in the pilot program one school district in each of the northern, central, and southern regions of the State, including an urban school district, a suburban school district, and a rural school district. In selecting the pilot school districts, the commissioner may consider the percentage of students in the district classified as eligible for special education programs and services, the percentage increase in such classifications over the prior five school years, and the district’s interest in participating in the program. The commissioner shall collaborate with each pilot school district on the procedures to be implemented to conduct the comprehensive eye examinations, including the coverage of any costs associated with the examinations. 1In any agreement concerning the cost of providing examinations, no parent or guardian of a student shall be required to make any payment to the optometrist or ophthalmologist providing a comprehensive eye examination, or the school district or any other entity 2; except that if the student is covered by a health insurance plan which has a copayment requirement, the parent or guardian shall pay the health care provider the required copayment. In this case, the parent or guardian may apply to the Comprehensive Eye Examination Fund for reimbursement of the copayment2.1
c. The commissioner shall develop and distribute to the pilot districts a form to document and provide information on each comprehensive eye examination conducted under the program.
4. The commissioner shall implement a plan to collect data from each participating school district on the impact of the pilot program on reducing the number of students classified as eligible for special education programs and services. The data collected from each district shall include, but not be limited to: information regarding the types, number, and severity of vision-related problems diagnosed; the percentage of students classified as eligible for special education programs and services in the district in each of the five school years prior to the inception of the pilot program; the percentage of students classified as eligible for special education programs and services in each of the school years in which the district participates in the pilot program; an analysis of the cost-savings to the school district attributable to a reduction in the number of classified students; the level of parental satisfaction with the program; and any other information required by the commissioner.
5. There is hereby created a special fund in the Department of Education, which shall be entitled the “Comprehensive Eye Examination Fund.” The fund shall be maintained in a separate account and administered by the commissioner to carry out the provisions of this section. The fund shall consist of (1) any monies appropriated by the State for the purposes of the fund; (2) any monies donated for the purposes of the fund; and (3) all interest and investment earnings received on monies in the fund. The fund shall be used to cover the costs of comprehensive eye examinations 1[for any uninsured students]1 conducted pursuant to P.L. , c. (C. ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill) 1, for any uninsured students and students without applicable healthcare coverage 2and to reimburse the cost of copayments for any insured students2.1
6. No later than June 30 of the third school year following the enactment of the pilot program, the commissioner shall submit to the Governor and the Legislature pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1) a report that evaluates the effectiveness of the pilot program in reducing the number of students classified as in need of special education programs and services. The report shall include a recommendation on the advisability of the program’s continuation and extension to additional school districts.
7. This act shall take effect immediately.