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February 6, 2013

Senate advances cursive writing requirement

Bill moves to the Indiana House, where it died last year

INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana state Sen. Jean Leising’s push to require the teaching of cursive writing in elementary schools has gotten national attention, including a story last week in the Wall Street Journal.

On Tuesday, that push moved forward as her colleagues in the state 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 state House of Representatives, where it died last year.

“People will come up to me and say, ‘Thanks for working on that cursive writing bill,’ ” said Leising, a Republican from 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 Democrat state Sen. Tim Skinner, a retired school teacher 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 the legislature.”

State Sen. Earline Rogers, a Democrat from Gary and retired school teacher, 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.

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