(The Center Square) – The Iowa Senate is considering requiring school districts to teach proficiency in cursive reading and writing by the end of third grade.
The Iowa Senate Education Committee passed the bill last week by a party-line vote.
State Senator Jim Carlin, R-Sioux City, the bill’s floor manager, told The Center Square in a phone interview Wednesday that the Iowa Senate is looking at reinserting cursive into the curriculum because of benefits for cognitive development and to encourage students’ ability to read the Founding Fathers’ documents for themselves. It’s also a method of expressing individuality, he said.
He said most of the studies he read concluded cursive writing is significantly beneficial. Studies he read indicated cursive writing facilitates motor pathways for learning and language skills. One study with these findings was published in 2020.
“It’s not my intention to be disrespectful. I just want to put children in the best possible position to succeed academically,” he said. “There’s a lot of issues in Iowa schools right now related to proficiency that are very concerning.”
He said academic success will encourage economic growth and he’s not presenting the concern to question curriculum developers.
“I’m not holding myself out to be some expert on education because I’m clearly not,” he said. “I do, however, research things, and if something makes sense to me and does not appear to be unduly burdensome on the process because it has a history of working, then I think it should be put back in. Not everything that gets done in education, however well-intentioned it may be, is progress.”
This is one of three bills Carlin authored that have made it out of Education Committee. His other bills look at achievement gaps between students of minority groups and an examination of the impact of cellphone technology on cognitive development, socialization, mental health and attention span.
“We need to have more self-awareness of what is shaping the minds and neural pathways in those early years and realize the implications are very serious and if conducted properly, can bring about much, much better results,” he said.
A fiscal note on the bill, Senate File 2351, said school districts’ estimated costs for the curriculum would be about $10 to $15 per student and $25 per teacher. Statewide teaching of the curriculum would cost an estimated $400,000 to $575,000. Under the bill, public school districts would use a portion of their state school foundation aid to fulfill the requirements, with no additional funding from the state. As of 2020, 21 states require cursive writing instruction, the fiscal note said.