DES MOINES, Iowa – SF 89, a bill that requires Iowa’s public elementary schools to teach cursive, advanced out of an Iowa Senate subcommittee on Wednesday morning.
State Senator Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, the lead sponsor of the bill and chair of the subcommittee, said he had several constituents approach him about this issue.
The Iowa Core, the state’s K-12 academic standards, does not require that cursive is taught, but the Iowa Department of Education does not prohibit them from being taught either.
With the emphasis on STEM education and the Iowa Core standards, many schools don’t teach cursive or don’t spend enough time instructing students on how to read cursive and write in cursive.
State Senator Sarah Trone Garriott, D-Windsor Heights, said that she does not take issue with teaching handwriting but is concerned about the bill being an unfunded mandate for public schools.
“I know that there’s (sic) some really great benefits about that hands-on learning experience. What I’m concerned about is that there is no additional funding to go along with this mandate. And for public schools, after ten years of increases of state aid that don’t even meet inflation, they’ve taken an effective cut every year,” she said.
Phil Jeneary, representing the Iowa Association of School Boards, said they are neutral on the bill but had two concerns.
“One, the unfunded mandate. And then, as you know, schools are coming back and really playing catch up with a lot of the learning loss that’s occurred since last year. I just kind of wonder if now is the time that we add one more thing as teachers and students are really trying to play catch up on a lot of lost instruction time. And do we want to use that instruction time to teach them cursive writing?” he asked.
Dave Daughton, representing Rural School Advocates of Iowa, said he polled some elementary school principals who said they teach cursive through third grade.
Thomas Mayes from the Iowa Department of Education said he hoped that an allowance for children with disabilities would be considered.
“This particular issue has several mental, physical, social, and practical benefits. The data has been shown that it improves neural connections due to stimulation of the brain, which is I think, is something we want to do. (It) shows handwriting activates thinking, language, and working memory. I5 increases writing speed, facilitates fluidity, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination. It also shows that information is recalled better when writing is in cursive as compared to keyboarding,” Carlin said during his closing comments.
He also indicated the Iowa Senate would have to consider funding for this. “Obviously, the school districts that are already doing this, this would this wouldn’t impact them in any meaningful way. But I think this is a conversation worth having and worth continuing,” he added.
In opposing the bill, Trone Garriott reiterated her concern about funding and was also concerned about adding more to teachers’ plates with increasing class sizes.
“That makes it very challenging to add another piece of curriculum to the pile with the very real prospect that we’re not going to get where we need to on public school funding to truly get those class sizes down,” she said.
State Senator Craig Johnson, R-Independence, supported the bill but did not provide any comment.
The bill can now be considered by the full Iowa Senate Education Committee.
Listen to the subcommittee hearing below: