Rauner vetoes cursive writing mandate

Rauner vetoes cursive writing mandate

A bill that would have mandated cursive writing instruction in public elementary schools contained an unknown cost for school districts.

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a measure Sept. 22 that would have mandated cursive writing instruction in public elementary 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 April 26 originally mandating cursive instruction in both public elementary and high schools. The bill then passed the Senate 41-15 May 30 with an amendment removing high schools from the mandate. The legislation was written to amend the Illinois school code to provide: “Beginning with the 2018-2019 school year, public elementary schools shall offer at least one unit of instruction in cursive writing. School districts shall, by policy, determine at what grade level or levels students are to be offered cursive writing, provided that such instruction must be offered before students complete grade 5.”

The fiscal note accompanying the original legislation which mandated cursive writing instruction for public high schools in addition to elementary schools, said passage of the bill will “have a fiscal impact on school districts; however, the specific amount is not known.”

Imposing a mandate on school districts – and by extension, taxpayers – at an unknown cost is irresponsible given the high tax burden piling up at the local level. Instead of adding a new cost, lawmakers should be looking to ease that growing tax burden. And reforming school districts, rather than placing additional mandates on them, would be a good place to start.

Illinois has the fifth-most school districts of any state in the nation, with more than 850. If Illinois just cut its number of school districts in half through consolidation, the state could conservatively save $3 billion to $4 billion in pension costs over the next 30 years. Any cost savings like that would be a huge win for residents, who are paying some of the highest property taxes in the nation due in no small part to administrative waste and costly mandates imposed by the state on local governments. With the cursive writing mandate those rising costs would only intensify, and for a purpose of questionable educational priority.

The governor’s veto will save school districts and taxpayers money. But in addition to halting new mandates, he and lawmakers should also take proactive steps to reform the many cost drivers contributing to Illinois’ tax burden, one of the highest-in-the-nation. School district consolidation and comprehensive property tax reform would be great places to start, and extremely beneficial for taxpayers.

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