The Actual Cost of Cursive in Illinois

Last week the Illinois House passed new legislation that would mandate that cursive is taught in schools across Illinois. This comes during the same time that they cannot pass a budget, for two years running. This got me thinking of the question "at what cost does cursive come at?" So I have attempted to estimate and cost it out.

The two major variables for hard costs are materials and professional development. Handwritten cursive requires consumable workbooks. A common set of materials for teaching cursive, which typically occurs in 3rd grade, is the Zaner-Bloser Handwriting series, which comes at a cost of $11.69 per student. According to the Illinois Report Card we have averaged 152,545 third graders each year over the past five years. This gives you a cost of student materials of $1,783,246 for the first year, and for every year after that.

Many schools haven't been teaching cursive for a while, so we would have to coach up our teachers, modify daily schedules for 15 minutes of cursive per day, ensure that we have methods for assessing student progress, and ways to intervene when students don't succeed. I estimate that we will need a day for each third grade teacher to re-train on their cursive skills and build out the curriculum. Using Illinois Report Card Data again, With 152,545 third grade students, with the average class size across Illinois in elementary schools at 19.1, and the average hourly rate for teachers in Illinois at $45.19 per hour we come out with a cost of $2,887,052 to retrain our third grade teachers.

Teachers need materials too, and we will get them one set ever, just to keep costs down. So the 7987 third grade teachers across the State also get $11.69 worth of teacher materials at a total cost of $93,364.

Total cost of year one in $4,763.662, which is only %0.43 of what Illinois owes schools in back bills from this year, because they haven't paid any school funding yet and owe schools $1,106,085,191 as of today. It is also enough to fully fund many small school districts across the state for a year.

The total cost after 5 years is $11,896,648. That is more than the annual budget in my child's elementary school district and a little more than 1% of what the State currently owes schools.

When working through this exercise I am not even factoring in the cost of the time for administrators and support staff to organize all of this, order materials, inventory orders, and cut checks for these changes - we will consider that a throw in as part of doing business. We also won;t factor in what we are not doing while we are teaching and preparing for cursive. Or the tissue we will need for all of the kids that are in tears as a result of forcing them to master a skill that has gone the way of ink wells, television tube repairs, and filmstrips. Really, tears must be a thing, because there is a whole curriculum called "Handwriting Without Tears".

So before legislators start passing mandates, maybe they should pass a budget. 

Visit #PassILBudget to see the peas from educators across the State of Illinois, including more than 413 Superintendents, to get this done.

Check my math here


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