By Scott Elliott, The Indianapolis Star
INDIANAPOLIS - The handwriting may be on the wall for cursive script in classrooms around the country, but an Indiana senator is renewing her effort to bring it back to schools in that state.
Cursive has been losing favor among American schools in recent years as an increased technology focus has them opting to teach keyboarding instead.
In 2011, the Indiana Department of Education decided to no longer require schools to teach cursive writing, joining 45 other states.
That's what prompted state Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, to file legislation last year to restore cursive to the state curriculum. She was unsuccessful, but she's trying again because it's a skill she thinks kids will need as adults in order to read notes from their bosses.
"If kids are not taught it, they won't be able to read it," she said.
Some see cursive writing instruction as a waste of time, an anachronism in a digitized society where even signatures are electronic, but others see it as necessary so kids can hone fine motor skills, reinforce literacy and develop their own unique stamp of identity.
Several states, including California, Georgia and Massachusetts, have added a cursive requirement to the national standards, while most others, such as Indiana, Illinois and Hawaii have left it as optional for school districts. Some states, like Utah, are still studying the issue.
Whether it's required or not, cursive is fast becoming a lost art as schools increasingly replace pen and paper with classroom computers and instruction is increasingly geared to academic subjects that are tested on standardized exams. Even the standardized tests are on track to be administered via computer within three years.
Experts say manuscript, or printing, may be sufficient when it comes to handwriting in the future.
Cursive still has many proponents who say it benefits youngsters' brains, coordination and motor skills, as well as connects them to the past, whether to handwritten historical documents like the Constitution or to their parents' and grandparents' letters.
Longhand is also a symbol of personality, even more so in an era of uniform emails and texting, they say.
But the bill again appears to be going the way of cursive writing itself.
Last year, the measure passed the Senate by an overwhelming 45-5 vote, but it never came to a floor vote in the House.
That could be the pattern again this year.
House Education Committee Chairman Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, declined to move the bill forward in 2012, saying at the time he felt it was "inappropriate" for the legislature to mandate curriculum in such a specific way.
"Nothing has changed in my mind," he said Tuesday.
The Indiana Department of Education dropped cursive as part of its adoption of the Common Core curriculum, standards that 46 states have agreed to follow. Common Core requires schools to teach handwriting but leaves it up to schools whether to teach students cursive in addition to print lettering.
The Common Core adds a new requirement that schools teach keyboarding, which some schools have substituted for cursive. But it does not prevent districts from requiring that both styles of handwriting be taught.
Leising said she thought outgoing State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett's opposition to the bill was the driving force behind killing it last year. She is seeking support from his successor, Glenda Ritz.
But Ritz's spokesman, David Galvin, said Ritz was not inclined to support the bill.
"Cursive should be under the purview of the state board of education," he said.
Contributing: The Associated Press