SB1197: Cursive And The Governor’s Veto

Arizona State Senator Steve Smith said before voting to keep cursive writing in public schools on Thursday, "School are supposed to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic in schools, lets keep writing in there."

Opinion By Itasca Small

As reported by ADI, Governor Ducey vetoed Senate Bill 1197. His action is just one more egregious move to handicap and indoctrinate Arizona’s children by power-hungry elected and appointed men and women by subjecting them to the Common Core Agenda. On it’s face, this bill would have required our public schools to teach Arizona’s public school pupils cursive writing and reading skills:

“The minimum course of study shall include instruction in cursive reading and writing to ensure that pupils, by the end of grade five, are able to create readable documents through legible cursive and writing.”

The underlying effect would have been to scuttle a key part of the social engineering, behavior modifying agenda infecting our public education system for more than a century! Cursive handwriting is crucial to many aspects of a child’s growth. That’s the real reason it has been excised from our schools!

One of my fine young grandnephews, Jacob, graduated from a Mesa charter school last year. At his Graduaton Party someone else had to read his Graduation Cards aloud for him because he can’t read cursive! How many Arizona public school graduates are handicapped in this way?

How many more children will be handicapped by Governor Ducey’s veto of SB1197? See: and,

The new law would have gone into effect 90 days after receiving the governor’s own “cursive” signature; instead, his name—in distinctive cursive style—was affixed to his required veto letter to Senate President Andy Biggs. (When the governor vetoes a bill, he is required to return it to the Legislature with his objections; you can read it here: )

Governor Ducey met the requirement—or did he?

His letter to President Biggs is full of glowing words of praise for cursive handwriting amidst statements like, it “must be taught in our public schools , . . .” So, what were his objections to SB1197? Why did he veto an act duly enacted by the constitutional entity tasked with legislating laws for the governance of our state, and particularly of our public school system?

Contrary to his declaration and directive to the state board of education on March 23, 2015, which he cites in the veto letter, the governor does NOT have authority to make education policy in Arizona beyond approving or disapproving acts enacted by the Legislature!

But, for some reason, he thinks his job description does gives him authority over public education and the state board! He declared as much in his declaration/directive to the board last year. And, everyone in power is still playing his game, pretending that the Emperor’s New Clothes are of the finest silk, rather than patched together with sow’s ears.

The Legislature even unlawfully gave him his very own pseudo-state board, renewed and relocated as a state agency residing under his protective wings in the Executive Tower. (Never mind that you can’t change the nature of the constitutional state board without a Constitutional Amendment, and you certainly can’t do so by the Legislature, nor in the General Appropriation Bill!)

There is nothing in the Constitution giving any executive authority over public education directly to the governor! His duty to appoint members of the state board of education and board of regents requires consent or rejection of nominees by the Senate, which the Framers deliberately wrote into the Constitution as a check on the governor’s power (they were especially concerned about protecting Arizonans from tyrannical governors!). His duty as an ex-officio member of the board of regents also does not give him direct executive authority over public education.

To hear Senator Jeff Dial and others extol the wonders of our governor in the SB1416 Senate Ed Committee Hearing on 2/4/16, one would think our governor had final authority and imbued wisdom to rule our public schools.

In his veto letter, Governor Doug Ducey claims there is already a process in place to ensure cursive handwriting “happens.” He then states: “In March, 2015, I directed the State Board to review, revise and replace the state’s academic standards . . .” He goes on to say that he has “communicated” to the board that “the new academic standards must include instruction in cursive handwriting . . .”

The problem still is, Governor Ducey has no constitutional authority to direct the state board to review, revise and replace anything! Which renders his veto objections moot! (But, SB1197 does not have enough support in the Legislature to override the veto.)

And, the state board has no constitutional authority to review, revise and replace anything! That authority belongs to the Legislature. SB1197 is evidence that some of our legislators have been striving valiantly to do their job!

In spite of his lack of authority to issue education-related directives, the governor vetoed the  cursive act in favor of his directive to the state board. But, the board’s “Standards Development Committee,” formed in response to the directive, is a farce! Which is further proof that the board is an “IT” and, as such, is incapable of acting except through its Executive Officer and Secretary, who is the sitting state superintendent of public instruction.

One year after Governor Ducey’s declaration of his authority, along with his directive to the board to review, revise and replace the Common Core Standards wherever they are found wanting, not one “academic standard” has been dissected and declared in need of revision or  replacement, nor been found to be “just right!”

Meanwhile, Arizona’s children are being subjected to the Common Core Agenda every day! Denying them the benefits of learning cursive is a deliberate part of that agenda. . . .

Hence, Governor Ducey’s imposition of the National Governors Association plot to entrench the Common Core Agenda by pretending to root-it-out with “Smoke and Mirrors,” dubbed “Review & Replace,” is working quite well in Arizona! Meanwhile, Arizona’s children are being subjected to the Common Core Agenda every day! And denying them the benefits of learning cursive is a deliberate part of that agenda. . . .

Governor Ducey wants us to believe that he actually wants Arizona’s schoolchildren to be taught cursive handwriting, when he has to know full-well that his excuse for vetoing the act doesn’t hold water! The children are not learning cursive and they never will if they have to wait on the governor’s Smoke and Mirrors Game!

Governor Ducey also wants us to believe that his office gives him authority over the entire Executive Department, as does the Office of President over the national Executive Branch. IT DOESN’T! Arizona’s Constitution, Art. V, established a plural seven-branch executive department, now consisting of five branches, each headed by elected state-level executive officers. The Framers did this to protect against tyrannical State Governors, after nearly half a century of tyrannical Territorial Governors!

This means Arizona’s governor IS NOT like the president! Our governor IS NOT superior to the other four executive officers! Each has authority specific to his/her branch, and in that authority are inherent powers and duties consistent with the constitutional nature of the executive governmental responsibilities of each branch. Each is the highest-ranking official in the state over his/her branch of the executive department! The governor is not superior to the others!

Further, the Legislature is bound by the Constitution in making laws for the governance of this State. Contrary to claims by certain senators, the Legislature does not have the authority to make laws governing the powers and duties of constitutional entities in any manner whatsoever, without regard for the obvious inherent powers and duties of those entities! See “SB1416: Answering Senator Allen.”

Governor Ducey has usurped power from at least one of the other four, elected state-level executive officers of the Executive Department—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas—with the cooperation of the Legislature, under the “influence” of Senate Leadership.

Our State Constitution places the responsibility for our public school system in the Legislature. See Roosevelt Elementary School District v. C. Diane Bishop, 1994, and our State Constitution, Art. XI. §1(A). and,

The overall responsibility being in the Legislature, it is that body’s duty to enact such laws as are necessary to establish and maintain the public school system—ongoing, in perpetuity, unless and until We the People amend our Constitution to the contrary.

The governor believes he has authority to direct the state board to make policy and rules over the public school system. (And, apparently, to direct the Legislature to cede its authority and that of the SPI, to the SBE and thereby to him. . . .)

Art. XI. §2 vests, “The general conduct and supervision” of the public school system in the state board of education, the state superintendent of public instruction, county school superintendents and the governing boards of state colleges and universities. (This clause does not negate the state-level executive authority, powers and duties inherent in the SPI as the highest-ranking education official in the state, through Art. V!)

“The general conduct and supervision” does not mean that the state board of education is responsible for making/setting all policy governing the public school system. “The general conduct and supervision” is not making policy! That is the Legislature’s job!

Art. XI. §2 does not vest the power to “exercise general supervision over the public school system” solely in the state board, as the Legislature has done in Arizona Revised Statutes, Title 15-203.§A.1 (see below).

Yet, the Legislature in §A.1, has usurped the power inherent in the other constitutional entities listed above, and given it to the state board alone! Along with abrogating its own responsibility—as the legislative body—to “regulate the conduct” of the public school system, to the state board by ceding its own power to adopt as law, those rules and policies it deems necessary subject to the Constitution.

15-203. Powers and duties:
A. The state board of education shall:
1. Exercise general supervision over and regulate the conduct of the public school system and adopt any rules and policies it deems necessary to accomplish this purpose.

The state board is also specifically tasked by the Legislature in many other statutes, to adopt rules and regulations to implement laws enacted. However, the Legislature is constitutionally responsible for determining and enacting official education policy and rules as laws for the maintenance of the public school system. Obviously, legislators and governors have known this fact for 104 years. Had they not known it we would not have the Arizona Revised Statutes’ Education Title 15, at thousands of pages long!

The legislators know they—and not the board, nor the governor—have the policy-, rule- and regulation-making authority. Proof of this fact can be found in SB1208, a proposed bill amending title 15-203. The bill would add paragraph A.14(h) to the board’s powers and duties:

A. The state board of education shall:
14. Supervise and control the certification of persons . . . The rules:

The proposed paragraph requires the board to allow for renewal of certain teaching certificates, and, the board “may not require more than . . .”

This straightforward language clearly shows that state senators know that they and their fellow legislators dictate to the state board what it can and cannot do! It requires the board to allow for renewal, while NOT allowing the board to require more than fifteen hours of credits to qualify for renewal!

Pure logic shows that the claims of authority over education by Governor Ducey—and the arguments promulgated by at least President Pro Temporé Allen—that the state board makes/sets policy and rules, are disingenuous at best.

And, SB1208? President Pro Temporé Sylvia Allen is the Prime and ONLY Sponsor! The bill had one Senate Amendment adopted; it is the Allen Amendment, signed and represented by Senate Ed Committee Chair Allen.

Perhaps Senator Allen would do well to contemplate the arguments she is making to the people of Arizona regarding the authority of the state board and the governor before she throws-in-with President Biggs in the rumored salting of the unconstitutional language of SB1416 into budget or other bills before this Session of Arizona’s Fifty-Second Legislature ends with Sine Die!

In conclusion, Governor Ducey vetoed a lawful act by our Legislature that was in the best interest of all Arizona public schoolchildren. His motivation appears to be a desire for Arizonansto believe two falsehoods:

1. As governor, he has authority to determine education policy, and,

2. As governor, he has the authority to direct the state board of education to act in reviewing, revising and replacing “standards.”

But, the state board (SBE) is still an “IT,” and “it” cannot act except through the state superintendent of public instruction! This is why the SBE-led Standards Development Commission is impotent and a farce perpetrated against Arizona’s schoolchildren!

So, with his veto, Governor Ducey was required to state his objections to the cursive handwriting act lawfully enacted by the Arizona State Legislature.

Considering that his only reason for killing SB1197—his power-usurping directive to the state board—was not constitutionally valid, I find his excuse egregiously unacceptable!

May this defeat be a rallying cry for Arizonans demanding the return of Parental Rights in the best interest of ALL Arizona children!



  1. IF OUR CHILDREN ARE NOT TAUGHT TO WRITE WHAT WILL HAPPEN WHEN ALL OF OUR ON LINE GRIDS FAIL SUCH AS CELL PHONES,COMPUTERS,TABLETS AND ALL ELECTRONICS FAIL.How will our future children sign their name? With an X? Will they be able to communicate with others.Let’s not make future idiots.Writing helps with memory,cognitive skills,coordination,brain function.Think about this.

  2. Ms. Fish asks, ” Why are the “Cursive” fanatics so madly in love with this useless form of writing?”

    Useless? Perhaps you should do some research before insulting those leaving comments (somehow makes them feel “classy” and “superior”???), and accusing them of knowing nothing about the subject. Cursive writing is not about what is put down legibly on paper. It is about what is imprinted permanently on the brain. Research is abundant if you would like to find out more, but I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version: Instruction in cursive writing has been found to significantly improve both cognitive and motor skills, literacy development, brain development, memory, and written expression. Children who are taught cursive writing are better spellers, better readers, retain information longer, process information better, and have a greater ability to recall information.

    “An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people,” said Thomas Jefferson. Be warned.

  3. Isn’t it amazing how people will get fanatical over something they really know nothing about? “Cursive”, for example, simply means “running” writing — in other words, *script*. In the English written language, there are many forms of script. Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets were written in a form called “English Secretary”. The Mayflower Compact was written in a form called “Italic”. Our great state papers were written in a form called “Copperplate”. All of these are easily readable today. But what are the “Cursive” fanatics talking about? A form called “Palmer Method”, which is easily the worst form of script ever invented! It deteriorates readily into that illegible scribble for which doctors are so notorious — which has caused thousands of deaths from “medical error”, as any pharmacist can tell you. Why are the “Cursive” fanatics so madly in love with this useless form of writing? The answers they give are plainly unreasonable, so I can only assume that they push this form because it makes them feel “classy”, and somehow superior to those who use better, more legible forms. This is about as sensible as those old Chinese aristocrats who grew their fingernails a yard long to prove that they never did any kind of dirty low-class physical labor. Well, consider what happened to those Chinese aristocrats, and be warned.

  4. My business, although based in the state of New York, has customers throughout the USA and in other countries — including countries (and states) where cursive is mandated during one, some, or all of the years of school. Since most of my customers come to me after experience with cursive, and wishing to find some better way to write by hand, I have found that cursive mandates sooner or later increase my business wherever they are passed — which does not change my opposition to such mandates, but I suppose I should thank the proposers and promoters or cursive mandates for creating conditions that sooner or later send people to my door.

  5. Mr Reality Observer. I agree with you “whole language” is a failure. It is my understanding it is prohibited to be used per statute, but the ELA police are busy elsewhere I guess. It sounds like you know of a particular school using WL. Perhaps the School Board needs a reminder from a Dad like you who is informed or maybe a call the Az Dept of Ed?

    I do care about kids learning to read and write cursive and respect it is less important or not important to you. There are another important things to consider with this veto.

    The political side of this stem from consolidating too much power in the Executive Office and the appointed SBE members away from the elected SPI and the Legislature for that matter. If you haven’t already, please read the Governor’s veto carefully. He agrees and quotes the exact language of bill and says the SBE must do the very thing he veto’d: include cursive in Az standards. As Legislation, the cursive bill would have gone into place 90 days after the Legislative session ends. With a directive to the SBE–they’ve already demonstrated a long standing pattern of being slow to move among other things that displease parents. Why aren’t the 40 Legislators who sponsored this bill concerned the Governor is usurping their roles? Should a Governor give mandates to a board? That’s a valid question.

    This move also speaks to another Bill SB 1416 which seeks to move more duties to appointed State Board of Ed members away from the only elected voice in ed policy. I would encourage you to read this bill, too. What if you don’t like a future Governor’s agenda? 4 or 8 years make a big difference in a kid’s education.

    Mr. Reality, we may have different reasons and ways to try to make education better in AZ. Commenting on a story isn’t the most important way I try to make education better in AZ and I’d bet you work deeper in other ways into making things better as well.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “useless feel good BS.” If that was just an affront to my comments…that’s fine. We don’t have to agree to learn from each other.

    While I respect Ms. Glagstone’s thoughts, the inner workings and other implications of this bill don’t impact her business in New York.

    But, who and how ed policy is decided in AZ matters. The shift is happening and consolidating too much authority without balances generally isn’t good for anyone.

    • Sorry if that comment struck you as being a specific one against you. I was annoyed at the time. Trying to think of a non-vulgar way to put this… Ah. Mandating cursive writing is dousing the fire ant on your back porch with pesticide – and ignoring the giant hill that is in the front yard.

      Now, even a manual skill that I would consider quite a bit more important to “mandate” – touch typing, far more important as a skill in today’s world – is the exact same thing. Killing the ant, ignoring the ant hill.

      Spend your efforts on the problem that you have identified with the system (and I agree with you on most of what you have identified, although it is still not the WHOLE problem by any means). Push legislation that explicitly puts the power where you believe it should be. Push to override any veto of that legislation.

      Go after the ant hill. Do not spend money, time, and emotional energy on the single insignificant ant.

  6. I care about fluent and clear handwriting (which need not be cursive), and about the power to read cursive. Reading cursive, though not writing it, can be mastered in an hour or less.

    One of the researchers I cite about the fact that neither cursive nor printing is the fastest and most legible handwriting — Dr. Steven Graham — is at Arizona State University, and is at present contending against the demonstrated eagerness of certain Arizonan (and other) devotees of cursive to misquote him to the media and, under oath, to members of the Arizona Legislature, in ways that alter his research to make it appear to support cursive. Dr. Graham has repeatedly spoken out against this alteration of his work — see, for instance, his statements in the HAVASU NEWS:

    Those who love cursive would become far more credible if they did not misrepresent the sources they adduce. Misrepresenting a source in one’s own state — certainly when speaking, under oath, before the legislators of one’s state — is a local issue as serious as any in the field of handwriting or elsewhere in education. (It does not, by the way, demonstrate great intelligence or integrity on the part of those who are thus willing to misrepresent a source.)

    Until the defenders of cursive can confine themselves to accurate information, I will continue to regard the adulation of cursive (certainly, its adulation above all the other forms and methods of handwriting)’as the ritual veneration of a sacred cow.

  7. Ms. Gladstone, Parents in AZ spoke loud and clear in various venues/public comment meetings/emails/phone calls to our Legislators that cursive writing matters to us. We want cursive learning as it is a skill that matters to us. Out of 90 Senators and Representatives, appx 40 were sponsors and co-sponsors of this bill.

    You must see some value in handwriting/cursive as it is your line of work and I assume people must pay you for your expertise and assistance.

    Having volunteered in classrooms, I have not yet observed kids can learn cursive in 30 to 60 mins but I will stipulate some kids may. Kids need practice to learn how to connect different letters together.

    If you’re not from AZ, you don’t understand the policy, politics of this veto and opinion piece. This issue is far deeper than kids learning cursive. I noticed you didn’t address any of the AZ specifics mentioned in the story. I saw a similar post of yours in another major AZ publication. That story however didn’t go into the nuances of why this veto frustrates voters.

    With the veto, kids will wait longer and each school day that passes is one they can’t get back.

    Local decision making in education is losing its way and parents are tired of being ignored. These are our children waiting. We direct their upbringing, we pay the taxes that fund our schools and volunteer our time to support the classrooms.

    So another year will go by where parents who want their kids to learn cursive will have to teach their kids themselves. No one pays us to do it. We do it because it matters.

    Many schools currently only teach kids how to sign their names! I guess that’s all that’s needed to endorse the BACK of a check.

    • Oh, yes, “deep political currents” and “essential learning” here.

      Tell me, Mom, just how this does a single thing about the “whole word” garbage? Or the “free form grammar” garbage?

      Oh, yes, the student’s papers will be a work of art, graceful and flowing. And completely unrecognizable as the English language (or any other language, for that matter – unless it is “Ebonics”).

      By the way – Arizona DAD here. Born, raised, and lived here 50+ years.

      Feel free to contact me if you ever want to do something REAL about the sorry state of education in Arizona. Not this useless “feel good” BS.

  8. Handwriting matters: does cursive? Research shows that legible cursive averages no faster than printed handwriting of equal/greater legibility. (Sources of research are available on request.)

    The fastest, clearest handwriters avoid cursive. They join the most easily joined letter-combinations, leaving others unjoined, with print-like shapes of letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

    Reading cursive — which still matters — can be learned in just 30 to 60 minutes.
    There’s even a free iPad app teaching how: called “Read Cursive.” Why not teach leave this vital skill to depend on writing in cursive?

    Educated adults are quitting cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference run by cursive textbook publisher Zaner-Bloser.. Only 37% wrote cursive; 8% printed. Most — 55% — wrote with some elements like print-writing, others resembling cursive.

    Cursive’s boosters say cursive justifies anything said or done to promote it. They repeatedly allege research support: citing studies that were misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant or by some other misrepresenter whom the claimant innocently trusts.

    Re signatures, brace yourself: in state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over other kinds. (Ask an attorney!)

    Questioned document examiners find that the least forgeable signatures are plainest. Most cursive signatures are loose scrawls: the rest are fairly complicated: easing forgery.

    Mandating cursive to save handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to save clothing.

    Kate Gladstone
    DIRECTOR, the World Handwriting Contest
    CEO, Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works

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