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Indiana Senate advances cursive writing requirement

 

Indiana Sen. Jean Leising’s push to require the teaching of cursive writing in elementary schools has gotten national attention.

On Tuesday, that push moved forward as her colleagues in the Senate approved her legislation that would reverse the State Department of Education’s decision to make cursive writing optional.

Now the legislation moves on to the statehouse, where it died last year.

“People will come up to me and say, ‘Thanks for working on that cursive writing bill,’” said Leising, R-Oldenburg. “And I have to tell them, ‘It’s not a done deal yet.’”

Leising’s legislation to mandate cursive writing instruction passed through the Senate on a 36-13 vote. Among the bill’s supporters is Sen. Tim Skinner, a retired schoolteacher from Terre Haute. “Most elementary teachers recognize the importance of this,” Skinner said during discussion on the bill. To bill opponents who said the state shouldn’t be mandating what’s taught in local schools, Skinner said: “If you’re afraid of mandates you probably ought to get out of the legislature.”

State Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, a retired schoolteacher, voted against the bill. “I think we ought to leave decisions about curriculum to those who deal with it daily,” she said.

The Indiana Department of Education dropped its cursive writing requirement in 2011, after the State Board of Education voted to adopt Common Core state standards. The Common Core standards require elementary school students to be proficient in computer keyboarding, but not in cursive writing.

The state DOE gave local school districts the option of keeping or dropping cursive writing instruction for their students.

Leising’s legislation, Senate Bill 120, restores the cursive requirement.

In advocating for the bill, Leising cited studies that have connected the ability to write in cursive to a child’s cognitive development.

She also pulled out several small posters, created by some fifth-graders in Columbus, that listed reasons why they thought it was important to learn cursive writing. Signing their name on documents was among the reasons they listed.

Leising has earned wide attention for the bill. The Campaign for Cursive, launched nationally by cursive-writing supporters, called attention to her legislation last month as part of its recognition of National Handwriting Day.

She was also quoted in a Jan. 30 Wall St. newspaper article about the demise of cursive writing requirements in schools in other states.

Leising told the newspaper that more than 90 percent of the 1,000 constituents she surveyed in her rural district in Southeast Indiana said they favored teaching cursive.