Area Schools Brace For New Cursive Law

Thursday, December 21, 2017 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews  

Starting on July 1, 2018, all public elementary schools in the state will be required to offer at least a unit of instruction in cursive writing to students before they complete the fifth grade.

Some local districts, like Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview Elementary Schools District 89, are already preparing for the new requirements and say that accommodating the new state law won’t be a hassle, although some area administrators have expressed concerns about the measure.

Last month, both the Illinois Senate and House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of the bill creating the requirement.

In his veto message, Rauner argued that the “legislation constitutes yet another unfunded mandate for school districts that will not protect the health or safety of Illinois students.

“If the General Assembly believes that cursive writing instruction should be required in elementary schools because it will improve student outcomes, it should be included in the Illinois State Learning Standards and funded accordingly.”

But supporters of the bill argued that the extra cursive instruction would give students a skill that’s still essential — despite the changing technological landscape.

“As technology has advanced in the fast-paced world we live in, the way we write and communicate with each other needs to adjust as well,” said state Rep. Emanuel “Chris” Welch (D-7th), who introduced the bill, just after both houses overrode Rauner’s veto.

“To make our young students stronger readers, writers and critical thinkers, our schools will again teach cursive so they can begin to develop these necessary skills,” Welch said.

“Cursive writing is a skill children will need throughout their lives,” said state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-4th), who sponsored the bill in the Senate. “You cannot write a check, sign legal documents or even read our Constitution without an understanding of cursive writing.”

Many area districts already teach cursive writing. According to Luisa Berardi Caraballo, District 89’s communications coordinator, the district recently purchased a language arts cursive writing component “already built-in that will fulfill the [new legislation’s] requirements. ”

“District 89 is actively working to ensure the appropriate and effective implementation of cursive writing across the district,” she said. “We will share more information with our families in the near future.”

Both Oak Park Elementary School District 97 and River Forest District 90 already teach cursive writing to elementary school students.

Chris Jasculca, the communications director for District 97, said that while his district offers cursive instruction to second- and third-graders, officials will still be taking steps to ensure future compliance with the new law.

“We’ll be assessing and evaluating our practices in the months ahead to ensure that they meet the standards set forth by the law, are being implemented with consistency and fidelity, and are meeting the needs of our students,” Jasculca said.

At least one area administrator has spoken out against the new law. Louis Cavallo, the superintendent of Forest Park School District 91, said that while his district already teaches cursive, “it’s not a 21st-entury learning skill by any stretch of the imagination.”

Cavallo said that he met with Welch last year before the cursive writing legislation passed and expressed his disapproval to the lawmaker.

“There’s too much being added to all of our plates with nothing going away,” Cavallo said. “You should look sometime at what is required, it’s whenever any legislator finds something that they feel is their pet project.

“We have everything from Bosnian genocide, just some of them are crazy, date rape, they’re important topics, but they say, ‘You need to teach this, you need to teach this,’ and they just keep getting added, but nothing ever goes away.” VFP 

Nona Tepper contributed to this report. 

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