Financial Education Bills In State Houses: Spring Ritual or Harbinger of Real Increases in Access To This Essential Course?

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Mar 29, 2021
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Advocacy

Interested in advocating for financial education? Here's what you can do now:

  • Find your local high school on this Got FInance? map and advocate at the local school board. Over 1,400 schools have garnered enough grassroots support to make this happen! 
  • Read the bill that has been introduced in your state legislature. Here's a complete list of the 25 states + District of Columbia that have legislation introduced. 
  • Email your local state representatives and the bill sponsor to let them know your thoughts about the bill. Not all bills are perfect so if you have suggestions on improving it, let them know! 
  • More ambitious? Make it a class project to research the bill, craft a response to bill sponsors or local representatives. Student activism can make a difference! 

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25 states and the District of Columbia have introduced bills to increase access to financial education in their 2021 legislative sessions. The next few weeks will determine whether this is the typical spring ritual where bills are introduced, garner some media attention for the bill sponsors, and then die a quiet death in committee or rules or other legislative maneuvers. What's clear this year is the volume of activity is higher driven by the pandemic-driven recession and a K-shaped recovery which has left too many behind. 

These bills range from forming task forces and commissions (Arkansas and Illinois), to developing standards for what should be taught in a course (Colorado, Massachusetts), to ensuring that every high school student takes a course prior to graduation (many states).

Here's a list of the 18 states with bills focused on ensuring that all students receive instruction in financial education. Note that links are provided to these bills and that the summaries are paraphrased in some instances: 

  • Connecticut (SB 1033): Includes computer science and financial literacy as part of the high school graduation requirements. 
  • Georgia (HB681): The State Board of Education shall prescribe a separate semester course of study in personal financial literacy to be completed by students during tenth or eleventh grade
  • Hawaii (SR118): Urges the Dept. of Education to coordinate with the Dept. of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to implement a graduation requirement of at least a half credit in financial literacy during the junior or senior year. 
  • Illinois (HB157): Provides that, beginning with the 2021-2022 school year, each school district maintaining any of grades 6 through 8 must include in its curriculum and require students in those grades to take a unit of instruction on financial literacy
  • Kansas (HB2301): Prior to July 1, 2022, the state board of education and the board of education of each school district that offers a personal financial literacy course for any of the grades nine through 12, shall adopt a policy that allows a student to fulfill ½ of a math credit required for graduation by passing such personal financial literacy course.
  • Michigan (HB4590): Accepts financial literacy as one of the four required math credits for graduation. 
  • Maine (LD701): This bill adds instruction in financial literacy and social-emotional competence to the minimum requirements for a high school diploma.
  • Maryland (HB0916): Requires students to complete a financial literacy course in order to graduate from a public middle or high school
  • Minnesota (HF1617): Students beginning 9th grade in the 2021-2022 school year and later must successfully complete a personal finance course for credit during their senior year of high school.
  • Nebraska (LB327): Students must complete at least one half-credit hour of a personal finance or financial literacy course prior to graduation, beginning in the school year 2022-23
  • Nevada (AB19): Revising the academic subjects that constitute social studies, including civics, financial literacy and multicultural education
  • New Hampshire (HB242): Adds personal financial literacy to the list of criteria for what defines an “adequate education.” 
  • New York (A 6234): Requires all public and private schools to provide financial literacy education to pupils in grade eleven
  • Ohio (SB1): Beginning with students who enter ninth grade for the first time on or after July 1, 2021, at least one-half unit of instruction in the study of financial literacy
  • Oregon (HB3232): Establishes financial literacy as a requirement for high school diploma
  • Pennsylvania (HB 242): Provides for personal finance instruction and for capstone course in personal finance as graduation requirement 
  • South Carolina (SB16): Each student attending a public high school in this State, including a charter school, shall complete a one-half credit course of study in basic personal finance as a requirement for high school graduation
  • Texas (HB3575): The course may be offered as a distinct course in personal financial literacy and career skills or as an elective course or existing course that includes instruction in personal financial literacy and career skills sufficient to meet the requirements for one-half credit. 

Here are some of the nuances in these bills:

  • Bills that incorporate financial education also include other ideas about what should be taught in high schools:
    • Connecticut: Include both computer science and financial literacy as new graduation requirements.
    • Nevada: New social studies requirements would include civics, financial literacy and multicultural education
    • New Hampshire: Personal finance literacy added as core knowledge domain and computer science and digital literacy to be incorporated in one of the core domains
    • Maine: Includes social-emotional learning in addition to financial education. 
  • Several states will count a financial literacy course as one of the math courses required for graduation:
    • Michigan: "...if that course aligns with the subject area content expectations for mathematics developed by the department and approved by the state board."
    • Kansas: "...allows a student to fulfill ½ of a math credit required for graduation by passing such personal financial literacy course..."
  • The earlier the instruction, the better in these states which bring the requirement down to the middle school:
    • Maryland 
    • Illinois
  • Most believe that a course that all high school students should take is best delivered late in their high school careers:
    • New York: Junior year
    • Minnesota: Senior year
    • Hawaii: Junior or senior year
    • Georgia: Sophomore or junior year
  • Varying lengths of credit hours for a personal finance course
    • Nebraska's course duration of one half credit hour, where a credit hour is defined as one period per week for at least one semester, seemed the shortest duration
    • Most identified the course length as the equivalent of one semester

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About the Authors

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

Yanely Espinal

Born and raised by Dominican, immigrant parents in Brooklyn, Yanely is a proud product of NYC public schools. She graduated from Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School in 2007 before going on to receive her bachelor's degree at Brown University in 2011. As a Teach For America corps member, Yanely taught third and fourth grade in Canarsie, Brooklyn. She received her master's degree from Relay Graduate School of Education in 2013. She spends her spare time making YouTube videos about personal finance on her channel, MissBeHelpful. Yanely also loves to dance, sew, paint, listen to podcasts, and babysit her soon-to-be 7 nieces and nephews!