State Board advances cursive rule

The State Board of Education on Thursday evening granted initial approval to a rule requiring cursive handwriting be taught in elementary schools.

The measure passed on a 6-1 vote, with board member Ken Edmunds casting the lone dissenting vote.

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Rep. Linden Bateman

During this year’s legislative session, Idaho Falls Republican Rep. Linden Bateman led the push to call on the State Board to create a cursive handwriting requirement. His concurrent resolution passed the House 68-2 and easily cleared the Senate on a voice vote.

Bateman, a longtime educator and student teacher supervisor, argued that if cursive is not taught it will be forgotten and students will no longer be able to read old family letters or original versions of historical documents such as the Declaration of Independence.

When Bateman pushed the legislation, he said it has been up to district officials, principals or teachers whether or not cursive is taught.

Bateman pushed hard for the bill during the legislative session, bringing in language and communications experts to vouch for merits of handwriting and share studies that demonstrated the benefits of cursive on the development on adolescent brains.

Once news of his legislation spread, Bateman received and publicly shared the dozens of letters of encouragement he received from Idahoans and supporters across the country. The bulk of those letters – fittingly – were penned in meticulous cursive script.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna said the new rule applies to elementary schools, but does not specify in which grades cursive should be taught.

The next step is for the cursive rule to go out for public comment, and then go back to the State Board, likely during its November meeting.

The board’s regular meeting took place Wednesday and Thursday on Idaho State University’s campus in Pocatello.

New P.E. requirement falters, then advances

In other action Thursday night, board members first struck down and then reconsidered a proposed rule to add physical education as a graduation requirement.

Under the rule, high school students would be required to complete at least two credits of P.E. in order to graduate. That same rule would allow districts to waive one of the two credits if a student participates in a sanctioned high school sport or activity, such as gymnastics, that is approved at the local level.

The motion first failed 2-3 after board members Rod Lewis, Richard Westerberg and Edmunds voted against it.

Most of the opposition focused on local control issues.

Richard Westerberg
Richard Westerberg

“(We would) have a lot better response if it was a locally mandated program than if it was mandated by the State Board,” Westerberg said.

Luna said the rule was brought and supported by a coalition of P.E. teachers and the American Heart Association.

“We know physical activity in schools has a very positive effect on student achievement,” Luna said.

After a period of technical debate, the board members who first struck down the rule voted to reconsider it and then reluctantly grant it initial approval. Luna argued that educators and the public should be allowed to comment on the rule before the board takes definitive action.

The rule stipulates that elementary school students would be required to take 60 minutes of P.E. a week, with that number increasing to 200 minutes in middle school.

Currently, P.E. is required in elementary and middle schools, but no minimum time requirement is spelled out. Likewise, high schools must offer P.E., but it is not a graduation requirement.

Anyone wishing to comment on the proposed P.E. rule – either for it or against it – may contact State Department of Education Chief of Staff Luci Willits.

After a public comment period, the P.E. rule will go back to the State Board for consideration, possibly at its November meeting.