CHARLESTON — If two bills pass the Senate and are signed by Gov. Jim Justice, elementary school children in West Virginia will once again be required to learn to write in cursive and a high school personal finance class will be necessary for graduation.
Teaching cursive writing has been optional around the country for about a decade or more, prompted by the emphasis on keyboarding and the 2010 federal Common Core standards which did not include cursive instruction.
But a move in recent years in many states has been to bring it back, and Del. Rodney Pyles, D-Monongalia, sponsored this year’s bill, House Bill 4089, which passed the House by an overwhelming 87 to 8 margin.
All area delegates voted for the bill.
That is good news for Mercer County School Board member Mary Alice Kaufman of Bluefield.
“I have fought for that since I’ve been on the board,” she said. “I think it’s obvious why it’s important.”
Cursive is a form of communication that needs to be interpreted, she said, adding that, for example, the U.S. Constitution is written in cursive along with many other historical documents.
“Wouldn’t it be terrible in a few years if you had to have an interpreter to interpret the Constitution because they can’t read it?” she said. “I am so glad they are doing this. I think it’s terrible we have to have a law to make us do it.”
Alabama passed a law requiring it in 2016. That same year, Louisiana passed its own cursive law. Others like Arkansas, Virginia, California, Florida and North Carolina, have similar laws.
As of now, 21 states now once again require cursive to be taught.
Research indicates that learning cursive writing increases brain development and fine motor skills.
A study published in 2012 that examined the writing habits of Canadian second-grade students found that students learning cursive benefited more in their work than students who only learned print, as The Christian Science Monitor reported at that time.
The bill is now in the Senate Education Committee.
Bluefield High School business teacher Sandy Gallimore is also happy about teaching cursive, relating an experience about writing a note in cursive to a student on a paper she turned in. But the student, who had transferred here from another area, could not read it.
“It just floored me,” she said.
However, Gallimore is particularly happy about the personal finance class requirement bill, House Bill 2775 sponsored by Del. Carl Martin, R-Upshur, which, if passed, will start with the 2021-2022 school year after the state Board of Education develops the standards for the coursework.
“I think it’s really important for kids to be able to set financial goals and know what they are aiming for when they get a job,” she said. “They need to know how to develop a budget and read paychecks. They need to understand where their money is going.”
Gallimore said students sometimes don’t seem to know the basics of things like how to write a check or set up a bank account or keep up with debit card purchases.
They should learn all about loans, interest rates, mortgages, how to buy a car and how to invest, she said.
“There are a lot of valuable lessons they can learn in a personal finance class,” she said, adding that’s it’s also very important for those going to college to know how to save and budget their money in the real world.
Gallimore said BHS already offers a personal finance class as an elective, part of the CTE (Career and Technical Education) business curriculum, often taken if math requirements are already met and as “completer” for the four required CTE courses.
“We try to encourage our kids to take a personal finance class,” she said, but it’s only optional and they may have difficulty working it in.
Gallimore said business/finance fundamentals were at one time offered in county schools through a “math for living” program.
State Sen. Chandler Swope, R-Mercer County, said he intends to support both bills, but the personal finance legislation is something he understands the importance of.
Swope is a retired businessman who owned Swope Construction.
“I support both bills, especially financial education,” he said. “Everyone needs to know how to manage a bank account and family budgets, even if they never work in an office.”
Swope also said other life skills classes, including home economics, “seem to have fallen out of K-12 education.”
The bill passed the House the 89-8 and has been communicated to the Senate.
In a recent poll published by Forbes Magazine, only five states received an “A” grade for their financial education efforts: Alabama, Virginia, Tennessee, Utah and Missouri. These five states require high school students to take at least a half-year personal finance course as a graduation requirement.
— Contact Charles Boothe at email@example.com