BY ASHLEY THOMAS
State Senator Dorothy L. Hukill (R-Port Orange) and Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen (R-Fort Myers) are introducing legislation requiring high school students to take a half-credit, full-semester course in personal financial literacy to meet graduation requirements.
Beginning with students entering grade 9 in the 2014-2015 school year, State Bill 212, coined the “Personal Financial Literacy Education Act,” would require standard high school diplomas to include one-half credit for instruction in personal financial literacy and seven and one-half, rather than eight, credits in electives.
Economic challenges cited
The course would beef up the financial component already required in an economics class lawmakers added last year.
“Many young people in this state graduate from high school without having a basic knowledge of financial literacy and money management,” Hukill offers in the context of the bill.
“The Legislature finds that, in light of the recent economic challenges nationwide, sound financial management skills are vitally important to all Floridians, particularly high school students, and … requiring educational instruction in financial literacy and money management as a prerequisite to high school graduation in this state will better prepare young people for adulthood by providing them the requisite knowledge to achieve financial stability and independence.”
As a former educator at Mainland High School, Daytona Beach Mayor Derrick Henry has reservations about the bill.
“The bill, while well-intended, is another example of state legislators adding more mandates to a curriculum that is increasingly cluttered and serves to further restrict local control of our schools,” Henry explained.
“My experiences in two separate Florida districts do not support the need because most of the content mentioned is already covered and supported by programs like Junior Achievement,” he added.
Program in force
Junior Achievement of Volusia County partnered with five local community banks this year to launch an online program for Volusia County high schools helping young people learn about money management and financial decision-making.
The interactive online simulation introduces students to personal finance and career exploration. Monetary scenarios allow users to role-play in financial situations such as developing a budget, maintaining a household and pursuing a career.
Other components of Junior Achievement introduce students to the importance of making wise financial decisions while demonstrating “planning, goal-setting, and thoughtful decision-making within the context of personal financial decisions.”
“If the bill is successful it is my hope that it will be accompanied by an increase in funds for proper implementation,” Henry concluded.
Taxes, contracts and credit
The proposed financial literacy class would include instruction on a myriad of topics for Florida high school students to include:
• Types of bank accounts
• Opening an account
• Assessing the quality of a depository institution’s services
• Balancing a checkbook
• Basic principles of money management, such as spending, credit, credit scores, and managing debt
• Completing a loan application
• Receiving an inheritance and related implications
• Basic principles of personal insurance policies
• Computing federal income taxes
• Local tax assessments
• Computing interest rates by various mechanisms
• Simple contracts; ontesting an incorrect billing statement
• Types of savings and investments
• State and federal laws concerning finance
If passed, the legislation would make Florida the sixth state in the nation to require instruction in financial literacy as a prerequisite for high school graduation and a standard high school diploma.