- Associated Press - Thursday, February 19, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - All that’s needed to return cursive writing classes to Arkansas classrooms is a signature by Gov. Asa Hutchinson - and if he signs it, it will probably be in cursive.

The state Senate on Thursday gave final legislative approval to a bill requiring public schools to teach cursive to students by the end of the third grade. Several districts dropped handwriting courses after Arkansas adopted tougher standards for mathematics and English.

“What this bill does is puts it back and requires what we used to have,” state Sen. Jim Hendren, R-Gravette, promoting a bill sponsored by his father, Rep. Kim Hendren, R-Gravette.

The measure passed 30-1.

“I’m in favor of kids knowing how to do cursive writing. I just think it’s something that ought to be done at the Department of Education or the local level,” Sen. Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia, said after voting against the bill.

Teachers have said some districts dropped cursive to concentrate on Common Core guidelines intended to ensure high school graduates are ready for college or a career. Researchers have also suggested in recent years that keyboarding skills are more important.

Erin Casey, who teaches would-be teachers at the University of Arkansas, praised the vote. She said her daughter learned cursive last year from a Fayetteville teacher despite the lack of a state mandate.

“It was a fantastic experience. My daughter picked it up right away. She is excited to write in cursive,” said Casey, a clinical assistant professor of childhood education.

She said that under recent education practices, handwriting wasn’t emphasized, and noted there are few courses that teach teachers how to teach cursive.

During last year’s gubernatorial campaign, Hutchinson and his opponent, Democratic candidate Mike Ross, each tried to dispel myths that Common Core had required schools to change course options.

“It does not do away with cursive writing. It does not do away with memorizing multiplication tables,” Ross said at an educators’ conference last September. Hutchinson said at the same meeting he supports instruction in cursive writing and multiplication - but that any changes to state standards could not make them weaker.

Hutchinson, who has signed previous bills into law in cursive, has appointed Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin to head a panel to assess whether Common Core guidelines are proper for the state.

The elder Hendren’s bill isn’t his only back-to-basics bill - he also wants to require that children be taught how to make change in cash transactions.

Separately, senators gave final legislative approval to a Hutchinson proposal requiring high schools to offer computer science classes. The governor said it could be a bigger deal than tax cut and Medicaid bills.

“This relatively small-ticket item may have the greatest long-term impact,” Hutchinson said.

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