What happened to requiring a financial literacy class at public schools? Lawmakers watered it down

High school graduates
High school graduates. Credit: ShareAlike Commons

High school days are filled with math, English, science and social studies, but lawmakers hoped to squeeze in a required, stand-alone financial literacy course that would cover everything from opening a bank account to filling out IRS tax forms.

That didn’t pan out in the spring legislative session.

In fact, the Legislature eliminated current law that required at least some financial literacy education as part of an economics class required for graduation.

But the House and Senate did approve some legislation to require all school districts, moving forward, to offer a stand-alone financial literacy class – distinct from economics – beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. It would be an elective class worth at least one-half a credit.

However, the class would be optional and teens wouldn’t have to take the financial literacy course to graduate.

Republican State Sen. Travis Hutson, who represents Flagler, St. Johns and parts of Volusia County, filed financial literacy legislation back in late November, with language saying:

“Many young people in this state graduate from high school without having basic financial literacy or money management skills, and…sound financial management skills are vitally important to all Floridians, particularly high school 20 students.”

And requiring financial literacy instruction “as a prerequisite to high school graduation will better prepare young people in this state for adulthood by providing them with the requisite knowledge to achieve financial stability and independence.”

But his bill didn’t pass. It had outlined a list of essentials for financial literacy, including opening and managing a bank account; balancing a checkbook; being knowledgeable about credit scores and managing debt; completing a loan application; and understanding insurance policies, tax assessments and income tax forms.

The new legislation doesn’t spell out all those topics, but the state would ensure financial literacy classes would comply with Florida’s academic standards.

And not all educators support the legislation, raising concerns about enough time in the school day for core academic subjects and other essential classes.

Gov. Ron DeSantis still must approve the bill, veto it, or let it become law without his signature.

 

 

 

Diane Rado
Diane Rado has covered state and local government and public schools in six states over some 30 years, focusing on policy and investigative stories as well as legislative and political reporting. She spent most of her career at the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times and the Chicago Tribune. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and did a fellowship in education reform at the University of Michigan in 1999-2000. She is married to a journalist and has three adult children.

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