scott vision conference(From Left) Scott Waller, President & CEO of MEC; Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann; Dr. Tonyatta Hairston, President of the Mississippi Optometric Association; and Representative Richard Bennett, Chairman of the MS House Education Committee.The Mississippi Optometric Association (MOA) and the Mississippi Vision Foundation (MVF) recently announced that for the fourth year, they will provide eye exams at no-cost to third graders who did not pass the state reading assessment test and do not have insurance. The exams are offered through July 31.

Studies show that children who struggle to read are more likely to leave school without graduating. This contributes to the poverty rates in our state. And, although Mississippi’s third graders continue to improve on their statewide reading assessment, in 2017, eight percent, or over 3,000 of the state’s third graders, did not pass.

“The Mississippi Economic Council understands the cornerstone of a strong economic climate begins with education. We are making great strides in improving our test scores, and we must do everything we can do to enhance our students’ ability to improve reading and comprehension, said Mississippi Economic Council President and CEO Scott Waller.

Vision is a better predictor of academic success than socioeconomic status. Statistics show that 25 percent of all school-age children have vision problems and more than 80 percent do not get the help they need. Results of the MOA and MVF Third Grade Eye Exam program (aimed at students who did not pass the third-grade reading assessment) reveal that 88 percent of the students who were tested were found to be in need of some form of visual intervention.

“I appreciate optometrists for sharing their time and expertise in schools across the state,” Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves said. “The ability to read directly correlates to a child’s potential for success. If we can keep raising the level of achievement among Mississippi’s students, the possibilities for our state’s future are endless.”

State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carey Wright said, “We greatly appreciate this annual effort to ensure our students have every opportunity to excel in the classroom. Providing the opportunity for students who may need glasses to receive no-cost eye exams is another way of preparing them for success.”

For students who are covered through private insurance, applicable co-pays may apply due to laws that require the doctor to collect this amount. All children, regardless of their family's ability to pay, will be seen by ODs participating in the program. The MVF, working with industry partners, will cover the costs for any student who needs an exam.

To locate a participating optometrist, parents of eligible third graders should go to www.msvisionfoundation.org or call 601.572.0845. When making the appointment, parents should tell the receptionist they are scheduling the third-grade eye appointment. They should bring the letter notifying them that their child did not pass the assessment test with them to the appointment.