Jul 16, 2018

The "States" of Financial Capability

Last December, the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College issued a report card on U.S. states and their personal finance education offerings in high schools. At that point, only Alabama, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and Utah received “A’s,” signifying that they require 60+ hours of personal financial instruction for graduation. Utah got an “A+” because they also require students to pass a state test on the subject. 

However, there has been progress on the financial capability front since the survey report cards were published, as several state legislatures have passed billed promoting curriculum in some way.

The most significant success is Kentucky. The state will be moving from a “C” rating to an “A” on Champlain College’s grading of state’s financial literacy initiatives with the passage in April of House Bill 132. As reported by The News-Enterprise:

“House Bill 132 would require a high school student to complete at least one course that meets financial literacy standards, which will be developed by the Kentucky Department of Education. The requirement would apply to ninth-grade students starting in the 2020-21 school year and each year after.”

The bill also applies to public charter schools. The bill passed on April 2 and goes into effect July 14. Several Kentucky Universities are gearing up to prepare teachers and support students in this initiative.

Also moving up may be Arizona. On April 9 they passed S.B. 1442:

“The bill would allow a school district to require students to pass a personal finance class in order to graduate from high school. It also directs the State Board of Education to create a program that will recognize students that graduate high school with a high level of proficiency in personal finance.” Note that it will be up to the school district to determine if the personal finance class will be a graduation requirement. Hopefully the state “program,” the creation of which is part of the bill, will encourage schools to jump on board.

Interestingly, Arizona went further with a continuing resolution stating their commitment to increasing financial capability of people of all ages and acknowledging credit unions’ role at the forefront of this effort.

While many school districts in Wisconsin have undertaken on their own to teach personal finance is one way or another, Wisconsin received a failing grade last fall. Wisconsin has since taken steps to remedy that:

“Gov. Scott Walker recently signed into law legislation authored by Kapenga and Rep. Scott Krug (R-Nekoosa) that requires public school boards in the state to adopt academic standards for financial literacy and incorporate instruction in personal finance into the curriculum from kindergarten through high school.”

Next week, the South Dakota Board of Education Standards will “sit down and decide what high school will look like for a generation.” Of 22 required credits in the proposal they are considering, .5 must be in personal finance or economics. Stay tuned on this one.

In Nevada, SB 249 was signed into law in June of 2107. It addresses instruction in financial literacy and economics in grades 3-12 in public schools. Schools were to apply for grants by April 30 of this year to assist in broadening instruction in this area, with an emphasis on professional development.

According to US News, beginning with the class of 2021, Arkansas will require that high school students receive personal finance education. While not mandating a separate class, they will require personal finance standards to be incorporated in existing classes. This change was announced last November.

It takes time to implement change, and surveys and scores won’t change overnight. But the momentum provided by individual teachers and school districts will be a critical component in getting eventually getting statewide legislation/mandates across the country [and if we missed news about your state, please reach out to Christian, our advocacy guru, at christian@ngpf.org). In the meantime, check out the #FinHero tab on the NGPF website to get involved in that effort!

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