The debate about teaching cursive to Hoosier kids has returned to the statehouse, and the lawmaker behind the cursive writing bill has shown no signs of backing down from the issue.
Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) has filed legislation every year since 2011 that would require elementary schools to teach cursive, and it’s died every year in the House of Representatives. But Leising says she won’t give up.
“I can’t hardly go anywhere in my district without someone speaking to me about ‘what are you doing about cursive? This is ridiculous,’” she says.
Many people who testified in support of the bill at Wednesday’s committee meeting say data shows cursive writing is good for cognitive development and hand-eye coordination. Sen. Frank Mrvan (D-Hammond) questioned how people who don’t know cursive could sign official documents.
Although the bill has failed in the House ever year, cursive writing proponents earned a small victory last year.
The 2017 General Assembly passed a law requiring the Indiana Department of Education to survey schools about cursive, which ultimately earned nearly 4,000 voluntary responses. Of those, 70 percent supported teaching cursive and 20 percent said they still teach cursive in their school. Leising says she had hoped those results would support her efforts to pass the cursive writing bill this year.
But IDOE pushed back on those results at the senate committee meeting. Mike Brown, IDOE’s representative at the hearing, says the data doesn’t accurately represent the entire state, because nearly half of the responses in favor of cursive came from a small group of districts.
Brown added the department believes districts should have the power to decide if including cursive in their curriculum is right for their schools. He says that with a shift toward preparing Hoosiers with skills in computer science and other STEM fields, cursive just isn’t a priority the way it used to be.
“Quite honestly, cursive writing is not a critical skill required for a 21st Century workforce,” Brown says.
Leising expressed her disappointment in the department’s testimony during her closing remarks. She criticized IDOE and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick for not being able to “stand behind” their own survey.
The Senate Education Committee will likely vote and pass the bill next week, but challenges for the legislation are expected once it reaches the House.