In Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey (R) has it in for licensing boards. He’s targeted 62 at last count, intending to shutter them unless they prove licensure is vital to professionalism and quality for their services.

In the mix, of course, is opticianry. The governor’s rationale for closing down the optician’s licensing board is that it’s a jobs killer (as apparently so are the other 61) and there are plenty of other states without licensed opticians doing just fine.

The retail optical people in the state are largely lobbying against this change. The state’s executive branch remains unconvinced, no doubt harboring the notion that nobody ever died from a bad pair of glasses.
There are currently 21 states (and Puerto Rico) requiring that opticians be licensed, meaning that 55% of the U.S. allows the sale, fitting and adjustment of eyewear without professional requirements. If Governor Ducey gets his way, we can add Arizona to the list.

This is not a new issue; factions within the optical community have impeded the licensing movement, primarily for financial reasons. At this juncture, with consumers questioning the value of the traditional eyewear sales proposition, it would seem that raising the standards bar would be a solid public relations move.

One of the problems, admittedly, is that there’s disagreement about what those standards should be. The current licensed states all have different requirements for licensed opticians—some offering specific state testing and others relying on the American Board of Opticianry testing.

Not too long ago, a group of high-profile opticians formed a committee to pursue a standardized professional requirement involving both education and licensure (with the strong encouragement of The Vision Council). Unfortunately, it became too difficult to reach a consensus on what a professional optician should be.

There is a wide range of opinions about this surprisingly controversial issue, including the one espoused by the Arizona governor and for those who are financially motivated to keep opticianry at bay, so to speak.

Until the profession takes an assertive (and collective) position on licensure and professional standards, those opposing voices will continue getting louder. In the end, the consumer will ultimately suffer.

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