Progress with Financial Literacy in the States, or Roadkill?
By Dan Kadlec
March 14, 2018
Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt says it is important to stop treating financial literacy as a privilege and start treating it as an essential skill. That’s what he told the State General Assembly last week, and now the Kentucky State Senate is considering a House bill that would require high school students take a financial literacy class.
Also offering comments at the session was Elizabethtown High School Educator Alex Todd, who has been teaching a financial literacy elective for two decades. “What we have been expecting for the last 40-50 years is without the knowledge, they’re going to go out and behave responsibly,” he said of students. “We have to come back and teach the knowledge and then the behavior will follow.”
While this discussion it is encouraging, it is anything but decisive. Financial literacy bills in the states are more often left for dead than bugs on a windshield. Last week in Florida, a bill that would have required a half-credit high school financial literacy requirement (and which had been in the works for five years) was postponed indefinitely and remove from consideration.
In Pennsylvania, Rosemary Brown, a republican state representative, introduced a bill last year that would allow students to take a financial literacy course in place of the social studies, family and consumer science or math graduation requirement.
“Now more than ever, it is critical that individuals save money, make sound financial decisions, grow their assets and develop a secure financial future for themselves and their children,” Brown wrote in a supporting letter. “In order to help young people acquire the knowledge necessary to make wise financial choices as adults, I believe high school courses in personal financial literacy should be encouraged.”
Her bill cleared both the House Appropriations and Education committees and passed the full House with one dissenting vote before landing with the State Senate in November, where it has gotten no attention.