Guest Post from Katie Kohoutek: How My Own Kids Inspired Me To Get My School To The Gold Standard In Personal Finance Education

Feb 26, 2020

Katie Kohoutek is a veteran business, computer and personal finance teacher from Lidgerwood High School in Lidgerwood, North Dakota. Her school's personal finance program is the 13th in the nation to receive a $10,000 grant from NGPF's Gold Standard Challenge grant program, which awards grant dollars to schools when they adopt standalone graduation requirements for personal finance. Here's Katie in her own words on the process of getting it done in her small, rural setting!

When did you begin advocating for your personal finance class?

As a high school business teacher for over 15 years, my advocacy journey unofficially began several years ago, as I have been primarily focused on delivering the best practical education to all my students. My journey to helping Lidgerwood High School become a Gold Standard School officially began this fall, though. During this recent time period, I started to gather support for my school board presentation in which I would ultimately pitch a local graduation requirement for personal finance. My biggest incentive to work for this Financial Literacy requirement was actually my own kids. I have four kids that will attend this school, and I would want them to take a financial literacy class and to be equipped with these financial tools! 

What challenges did you encounter? And what was your timeline to make the change?

Because I have taught in small, rural school settings, I've typically been the only business teacher in the building. With only one teacher to offer business and computer classes, over the years, oftentimes Financial Literacy didn't even fit our school's schedule. In addition, it seemed sometimes that Financial Literacy wasn't pushed as a priority to students, so they were enrolling in alternative classes. These were the main challenges I faced in trying to overhaul our Personal Finance program.
With that being said, I didn't face any resistance or obstacles from any stakeholders when proposing this requirement.
Here's what I did leading up to my pitch to the school board:
  • I did my homework on academic and consumer studies showing the impact of personal finance education on financial behaviors.
  • I researched what other schools around the U.S. were doing regarding personal finance graduation requirements.
  • I pulled in some of the nationwide statistics provided by NGPF's Advocacy Playbook
  • I combined these three pieces to gain the support of both my principal and superintendent before ever going to the school board.

When I eventually presented to the board, it really helped that one board member's daughter had taken my Financial Literacy class as an elective the year before, and this board member even spoke at the meeting about how the class had helped her daughter. This personal connection was so key! The board voted to adopt Financial Literacy as a standalone graduation requirement beginning with the 2020-2021 school year. 

Any words of advice for fellow educators advocating for personal finance classes?

I would encourage any educator who is considering pitching this graduation requirement to move ahead with your plan, no matter how daunting the path forward might be in your district!

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