Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

February 1, 2012

Proposals benefit students


The Herald-Tribune

BATESVILLE — On Jan. 25, lawmakers in the Senate Committee on Education and Career Development approved two key proposals authored by State Sen. Jean Leising (R-Oldenburg) to benefit Indiana students.

Senate Bill 83 — addressing cursive writing requirements — passed 10-0, while Senate Bill 296 — regarding school tax credit scholarships — passed 7-3.

Leising said SB 83 would require public school corporations and accredited non-public schools participating in the Choice Scholarship Program to include cursive writing in their curriculum.

“While keyboarding has grown as a needed course for students in this digital age, cursive writing is a must-have skill as well,” Leising said. “What will happen when we’re still writing notes in long-hand and future interns or job applicants can’t read our writing to complete a simple task? Wouldn’t it be unfortunate if Indiana residents could no longer read the original U.S. Constitution? This legislation would help young Hoosiers avoid these complications in the future.”

Leising also cited the General Requirements Exam (GRE), a test many Hoosier students must take to be accepted into graduate schools, as “good reason” to know cursive writing. Currently, anyone taking the computer-based GRE is first required to “write (not print) and sign a confidentiality statement at the test center.”

Individuals testifying in support of SB 83 included Rick Rikhoff with Zaner-Blosner, an educational materials publisher, and Dr. Karin Harman James of Indiana University’s Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences. Both cited studies showing handwriting skills are crucial for success in school and communication. Dr. James said IU researchers have used neuro-imaging scans to show finger movement associated with handwriting activates regions in the brain linked to cognitive, meta-cognitive and language processes.

Until fall 2011, it was mandatory to teach cursive writing in Indiana schools.

Leising said SB 296 would allow private-school students enrolling in eighth grade to receive tuition assistance from a scholarship granting organization (SGO). These students would be subject to income eligibility standards used by the Indiana Department of Education and would then be qualified for high school scholarships if they continued to meet the income guidelines.

“I have more than 2,000 elementary students in my district that attend private elementary schools,” Leising said. “However, it’s much more expensive for these children to attend private high schools and many parents who have put their students in the private elementary schools can’t afford to continue to do so for grades nine through 12. I’d like to help them continue to have the choice to do what they think is best for their kids.”

Leising added that her legislation has no state fiscal impact.

“SGO scholarships are privately funded and there is currently $3.5 million allotted for this state tax credit program,” Leising said.

Full copies of SB 83 and 296 can be found on the Indiana General Assembly’s website at http://www.in.gov/apps/lsa/session/billwatch/billinfo?year=2012&session=1&request=all .