Are Financial Literacy Classes Coming to High Schools Around the Country?
- Financial literacy is gaining traction across the United States.
- Twenty-one states and counting require high schoolers to take personal finance courses.
- Florida's legislature just took a huge step to bring personal finance education to high school students in The Sunshine State.
Florida's state legislature is leading the way when it comes to personal finances in the classroom.
When it comes to financial literacy, America flunks out. According to the Milken Institute, only 57% of Americans are financially literate. And in the face of economic turmoil, state governments are beginning to take notice.
Recently, state legislatures have begun to use high school curriculums to push financial literacy. This focused approach makes sense: Nearly all Americans attend public schools, and high school students are mature enough to understand and use money management skills.
A financial movement gaining traction
According to the Council for Economic Education, 21 states require high schoolers to take personal finance courses to graduate. That number may not seem impressive, but it marks a 50% increase in only a decade, and that trend looks likely to continue. Over 100 financial literacy bills have been introduced across 40 states in the last two years, according to the Financial Planning Association.
Florida's legislature recently passed the Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act, which modifies the current high school education standards in favor of financial skills. The bill passed both the House and Senate, and now awaits Gov. Ron DeSantis' signature to become law.
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Florida’s Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act
According to the financial literacy bill, Florida's legislature finds "sound financial skills vitally important to all Floridians." But how does that work in practice?
The bill first carves out space in the curriculum by reducing the prior eight elective credit hours to only seven and one half. It then requires students to take one half credit in personal financial literacy and money management.
So what's covered in the course? According to the bill, personal financial literacy and money management courses must discuss each of the following concepts:
- Types of bank accounts and how to open an account
- Balancing a checkbook
- Budgeting and spending
- Debt management
- Credit scores
- Personal insurance
- Federal and local taxation
- Saving and investing
- Contesting incorrect billing statements
- Federal and state finance laws
If signed, the legislation will not apply immediately. The first cohort of students which the bill would apply to are freshmen entering high school in the 2023-2024 academic year.
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What comes next for financial literacy?
The success of Florida's personal finance education program is notable for a couple of reasons:
First, Florida is the largest state to require high school students to complete a personal finance course prior to graduation. Additionally, Florida is only the seventh state to require a standalone money management course. Between these two facts, Florida shows financial education is feasible as an independent program at large scale.
Second, the bill shows financial literacy can garner support from both sides of the aisle. In a world increasingly divided along party lines, the bill received broad bipartisan support. Even more impressive than the bill's 35 cosponsors, is the fact the bill passed through both the House and Senate without a single opposition vote.
The passage of the bill marks a large success for financial literacy advocates everywhere. Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the bill into law. Until then, in the timely words of Schoolhouse Rock, the legislation is just a bill, sitting on Capitol Hill.
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