Illinois' Vision Law of 1987                    The top ten reasons why it hasn't been implemented

Janet Hughes

In 1987, the vision examination bill was signed into Illinois law recommending  public, private and parochial schools adopt a policy of required vision exams with the health examinations for all children entering kindergarten (or first), fifth, and ninth grade.  The law demonstrates the importance of an eye doctor evaluating children’s eyes at least three times during their schooling.  Unfortunately, schools failed to realize this recommended vision requirement.


It wasn't a state mandate

Fourteen years later, the elementary schools in Morris, Illinois, became the first to implement this law.  Thanks to the efforts of local optometrists, vision exams became required for all children entering kindergarten in Morris in 2001.  Community Unit School District 325 in Peoria Heights was next in 2003.   St. Mary of the Woods in Chicago followed in 2005.  The remaining schools in Illinois ignored  initiating a vision policy at the local level because it was not a state mandate.

Here are the top ten typical beliefs given by administrators against a vision policy followed by clarification of this 1987 law. 


10. Belief:  "We're against government mandates."


Fact:  This is not a state mandate.  It is a policy a school chooses to adopt for the benefit of the children.   Similar to the dental exam requirement but unlike the  health examination and proof of vaccinations, a child cannot be excluded from school if a parent does not comply.


 9.  Belief:  “Some parents object to required vaccinations.  These same parents may also object to a vision exam requirement.”


Fact:  According to Illinois law, a parent has the right to object to vaccinations, provided a letter is submitted stating it is against their religious beliefs.  Vaccinations carry risks and potential ill side-effects.  Vision examinations are non-invasive and have no ill side-effects or risks.   


 8.  Belief:  “We don’t want to impose another requirement on the parents.  Dental exams are now required for all children in kindergarten, second, and sixth grade."

Fact:  Academic learning is estimated to be 80% visual.  No child should experience school with an undetected and untreated eye or vision problem.


7. Belief:  “Parents cannot afford the cost of a vision examination.” 

Fact:  This statement underestimates parents who want to provide what’s best for their children.  The law states that if a school opts for this requirement, vision examinations shall be made available for needy students.  Vision First Foundation, in cooperation with the Illinois Optometric Association and the Illinois Eye Institute, pledges assistance and support to meet this need.


6.  Belief:  Parents will be able to identify a vision problem.


Fact:  Although parents need to be aware of the signs of potential eye and vision problems, children usually do not complain of impaired vision.  Early detection and treatment is important to prevent vision loss and for proper visual development.


5.  Belief:  The teacher will be able to identify a vision problem.


Fact:  Sometimes a teacher may suspect a possible vision problem in the classroom setting.  However, identifying vision problems is not a teacher’s responsibility.  Only a comprehensive eye and vision examination by an eye doctor can identify eye or vision problems.


4.  A basic blood and urine test is required in the health examination.  Belief:  “We don’t want to require another test.”

Fact:  When the Vision First “Student Vision Examination Report” is completed, a vision examination provides valuable information about a child’s visual abilities.


3.   Belief:  “Our test scores are good enough.”

Fact:  The Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT) 2005 report card found 66.6% of grade 3 reading scores meet or exceed state standards.  Limited vision screenings should not replace complete examinations.


2.  Belief:  “Children’s eyes are tested during vision screenings.  Vision exams are not necessary.”


Fact:  Children’s eyes are not “tested” during vision screenings; they are screened for a possible vision problem.  Vision screenings do not diagnose eye and vision problems.   Illinois law confirms: “Vision screening is not a substitute for a complete eye and vision evaluation by an eye doctor.” 


1.  Belief: “Vision screenings are adequate.”

Fact:  The latest study funded by the federal government's National Institutes of Health found vision screenings missed between 32 and 63 percent of vision problems identified by eye examinations.


Let's implement the vision law of 1987

Vision First Foundation advocates every school in Illinois to adopt a policy of required vision examinations with the health exams at kindergarten (or first), fifth, and ninth grade.  The Kids Eyes Count Campaign by Vision First contains everything needed to implement this law.

Mistaken beliefs prevent our children from having the best vision possible for learning in school.  Let’s accept the facts and aim for excellence. 


For the complete vision law of 1987 in the Illinois Administrative Code, Subpart F: Vision Examination, click here.               

Copyright © 2006 Vision First Foundation.  All rights reserved.