How Florida is Moving the Ball on Financial Literacy

By Jeanne Doran

May 9, 2017

A pair of bills in the Florida House and Senate that would make financial literacy classes a requirement for high school students are working their way through the legislative mill. Both enjoy support. But some lawmakers worry that adding financial literacy to the curriculum may result in a longer school day or elimination of other important programs.

Last month, a House Education Subcommittee approved HB 955, which was introduced by Republican Representatives Heather Fitzenhagen and Larry Ahern. The measure would require a half credit, or one semester, of a money management class, which would include topics like taxes, interest and bank accounts.

A Senate Appropriations Committee has approved SB 392, sponsored by Fort Myers Republican Senator Dorothy Hukill. Her bill would require ninth graders to take a half-credit course in personal financial literacy and money management. This would reduce electives by a half-credit.

Supporters of both bills note that 17 other states already have similar financial literacy requirements. This would help Florida students be competitive. But others argue that adding any new course would likely come at the expense of other programs. Florida generally is among the leaders in exploring financial education solutions.

“We’ll still stick with the same number of hours of school a day, 180 days a year,” Tallahassee Democrat Bill Montford told Florida Politics. “But every time we add something in as a graduation requirement, something else has got to fall out, and in the past this has usually been arts and physical education.”

His proposed solution: a longer school day. After all, children in other countries attend school eight hours a day, 200 days a year, says Montford, who heads the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. “At some point we’ve got to bite the bullet and admit that our children are too important, the curriculum is too important to remain on the 180 days, seven-and-a-half hours a day schedule.”

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Posted in Policy & Government on May, 2017