Cursive Law Becomes Welch's Signature Issue

Nov 9, 2017

With teachers devoting much of their time to preparing students for standardized tests, penmanship has disappeared from the curriculum in many schools. A new state law approved yesterday will bring it back, to ensure elementary students get instruction in cursive writing — sometime between 2nd and 5th grade.

State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Hillside) filed the measure the same day lawmakers approved his resolution on zombie apocalypse preparedness.

He took this measure a bit more seriously, but he wasn’t sure anyone else would.

"I certainly had no idea that it would get this kind of attention. When I brought it up, I struggled just to get it out of committee,” he says, “and, you know, now it's law."

As Welch discovered, people of all political persuasions are passionate about penmanship. Some have no use for it; others swear learning cursive is the only way kids can learn to read historical documents and birthday cards from grandma. Among state lawmakers, it turns out there are more of the latter.

Some legislators objected, calling it an expense schools can't afford, but Welch disagrees.

"It's not an unfunded mandate,” he says. “You talk to a teacher and they'll tell you: They can whip out their old projector screen, they can go up to their chalkboard. It's easy to teach and incorporate cursive into the things that they're already doing without any additional cost whatsoever."

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the legislation, but it garnered enough bipartisan support to become law without his signature.​

The law takes effect in time for next school year.

Credit Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS