Raleigh, N.C. — Public school students in North Carolina would have to be taught cursive handwriting and be required to memorize multiplication tables under a bill that passed the House Education Committee Tuesday morning.
House Bill 146, dubbed the "Back to Basics" bill, still must go through an appropriations committee before it can be debated on the House floor.
Sponsor Rep. Pat Hurley, R-Randolph, said she got the idea for the bill after receiving a series of printed notes from fourth-graders in her district. Only then, she said, did she learn that most North Carolina school districts were abandoning cursive instruction to spend more time on other topics, including typing on a computer keyboard.
Hurley said she appreciates the digital learning now taking place in classrooms statewide, but she believes basic skills like knowing how to write in cursive and quickly multiply numbers still need to be taught.
"We want a unique signature of these students. They have no signature," she said. "I think they need to have this knowledge."
Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said state education officials have no problem with the requirements, saying cursive and multiplication instruction can be fit into the Common Core language and math standards being adopted by the state.
Rep. Alma Adams, D-Guilford, wanted to know how schools could determine if students were proficient in cursive because the bill states only that they must be taught handwriting by the fifth grade.
Rep. Charles Graham, D-Robeson, expressed concern that some students might not be ready developmentally to handle cursive and multiplication when districts want to teach the subjects. That could lead to them being labeled as learning disabled and require occupational therapy, he said.
Hurley said she would try to address Graham's concerns before the bill goes before the full House.