Illinois House passes cursive writing mandate for schools

Illinois House passes cursive writing mandate for schools

House Bill 2977 would require both public elementary schools and high schools to include cursive instruction in their curriculums, and the plan doesn’t include how much this unfunded state mandate would cost taxpayers.

House Bill 2977, which passed the Illinois House of Representatives April 26, would mandate cursive writing instruction in both public elementary schools and high schools – at an unknown cost to school districts.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, D-Hillside, with 32 co-sponsors, passed the Illinois House by a 67-48 margin. It would amend the Illinois school code to provide: “Every public elementary school and high school shall include in its curriculum a unit of instruction practicing writing in cursive.” The fiscal note accompanying the legislation says passage of the bill will “have a fiscal impact on school districts; however, the specific amount is not known.”

Imposing an unknown cost on school districts – and by extension, taxpayers – is irresponsible when the cost burden at the local level is already piling up. And doing so for the sake of mandating cursive writing shows the misguided priorities of lawmakers.

Illinois’ more than 800 school districts, which are the fifth-most of any state in the nation, already place a heavy burden on taxpayers. Illinoisans pay some of the highest property taxes in the country – with the main cost driver being funding for education – and can’t afford to have another Springfield mandate passed down to them. Rather, lawmakers should take steps to lessen the burden on taxpayers.

Instead of burdening schools with new requirements with mystery costs, lawmakers could promote school district consolidation, which could save taxpayers a substantial amount of money each year. If Illinois just cut its number of school districts in half, the state could conservatively save $3 billion to $4 billion in pension costs over the next 30 years. And instead of focusing on passing unfunded state mandates, lawmakers should get to work balancing Illinois’ budget – something they haven’t done in 16 years – by tackling real economic reforms. A good place to start? Comprehensive property tax reform.

But lawmakers have yet to take serious action on any of those measures. So far in 2017, Springfield politicians have proposed ideas such as new taxes on landscaping, laundry services and internet streaming as “fixes” to the state’s financial crisis. Much like a cursive writing mandate with an unknown price tag, those proposals avoid the hard work necessary to fix Illinois’ most serious problems, and taxpayers – hit with the bill from state and local financial mismanagement – should demand better.

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