By Victor Skinner
PHOENIX – Arizona could soon require high school students to demonstrate financial literacy to receive a diploma.
SB 1449, sponsored by state Sen. Kimberly Yee, was unanimously approved by the Senate Education Committee this week. The legislation would require Arizona students to understand personal finance to order to graduate, the Cronkite News Service reports.
It’s a simple concept that’s sorely lacking in public schools.
The legislation is backed by Pay Your Family First, a company founded by former accountant Sharon Lechter to educate students on how to “become a master of their money, not a slave to their money,” according to the news service.
The lack of focus on personal finance in public schools is leaving students unprepared for life, and many quickly accumulate credit card debt, Lechter said.
“I realized when my own child had that kind of problem, what about the kids that aren’t getting any financial education?” she said.
“Our children are not leaving school with an understanding that as they take on debt and use credit, it will impact their cash flow and increase their expenses,” said Angela Totman, vice president of Pay Your Family First. “They don’t understand that that will impact their ability to provide for themselves in the future.”
Arizona Education Association lobbyist Jennifer Loredo doesn’t think the requirement is necessary because it’s already in the state’s education standards.
“Our concern is tweaking statute to start to specify little things that are already in the standards that are already being require to be taught,” Loredo said, according to the news service.
A standard is hardly the same thing as a graduation requirement.
If there is a standard already, then why are Arizona students – and so many of their peers around the nation – graduating high school with no idea of how to balance a checkbook or to start and manage a retirement savings account?
If there are standards in place, they’re clearly not working.
Sen. Yee and Pay Your Family First want to make sure students are financially literate before they step into the real world, and that’s a very worthy idea.