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Senate override makes it Reading, Handwriting and Arithmetic

State Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, speaks on the Illinois Senate floor. | Blue Room Stream.

After a legislator argued that high school students’ handwriting skills are so embarrassingly lacking that the children have to print their signatures, the state Senate on Wednesday crossed out Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a bill requiring elementary schools to teach cursive writing.

With no debate, the Senate voted 42 to 12 to override the governor’s veto of the bill, which would require all public elementary schools in the state to teach at least one unit of cursive writing. The House voted to override Rauner’s veto last month.

“I know that we’re moving into the era of technology, but signatures are required on everything,” state Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, the bill’s chief Senate sponsor, told colleagues on Wednesday. “Their Social Security cards, it’s required. On your marriage licenses, it’s required.”

Lightford said she was appalled when she served as a principal for a day at a high school in her west suburban district and saw the kids’ signatures.

“They all had print signatures — well print, it wasn’t their signature,” she said. “And it looked terrible. It was absolutely embarrassing that I was in a high school, and all of their writing looked like third grade to eighth grade level of writing.

“Cursive writing is important for marriage licenses, for insurance licenses. And if young people don’t have a signature, I mean, what are we doing here in terms of educating our students?”

The law will take effect in the 2018-19 school year. School districts will be allowed to determine when to teach the unit of cursive writing, as long as students receive it by the completion of fifth grade.

When he vetoed the bill in September, Rauner dismissed it as “yet another unfunded mandate for school districts that will not protect the health or safety of Illinois students. “

“If the General Assembly believes that cursive writing instruction should be required in elementary schools because it will improve student outcomes, it should be included in the Illinois State Learning Standards and funded accordingly,” the governor said in his veto message.