Financial education will always be a difficult subject for educators. States are in charge of their public-school curriculums, and in many states it is left to individual school districts to make key decisions on what and how they teach.
So, some failing grades in the new “report card” from the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College are not as awful as they sound. “In many states, the focus on personal finance is being moved forward at a grass roots level by the great efforts of educators, school boards, principals and superintendents,” says John Pelletier, director of the center.” This is being done in states where no clear mandate exists.”
For example, Wisconsin is a Grade F state doing many things to promote financial literacy. Officials have an Office of Financial Literacy, and the Governor’s Council on Financial Literacy awards grants to individuals and corporations making a difference. Without a mandate, 64% of Wisconsin school districts have a personal finance requirement for graduation, up from 44% in 2013. The state also hosts the National Institute on Financial and Economic Literacy, which provides teacher training.
In Vermont, which gets a grade D and has no personal finance mandate, the number of high schools requiring a stand-alone course in personal finance as a graduation requirement has increased to 20% from 3% in 2011, and another 50% of high schools offer personal finance electives—a rate that is nearly double what it was in 2011.
Meanwhile, Washington State, Iowa, Indiana, Missouri, Texas, Ohio and Florida have taken specific steps aside from any federal programs to ensure that college students better understand loans and debt.
Other grass roots programs abound, pushing financial education down to middle schools and into communities, and sponsoring teacher training. State treasurers nationwide have become especially attuned to the need for financial education and in many states have taken the lead in promoting programs and laws that support the movement.