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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

California voters may require 'financial literacy' class

The banker told the college-bound students how to open a checking account, write a check, make a deposit and balance the account, and promised his bank would provide free checking. Most of the teenagers came from low-income and working-class immigrant families. Few had accounts. Some of their parents didn't have accounts. They were about to navigate financial aid options and student loans.


California voters could make a one-semester personal finance class a high school graduation requirement, reports Carolyn Jones on CalMatters. An initiative written by a personal finance education nonprofit will be on the November ballot.


"Students would learn about paying for college, online banking, taxes, budgeting, credit, retirement accounts, loans, how the stock market works and other topics," she writes.


In surveys, teaching financial literacy is very popular. Many adults said they wish they'd known more about how to make financial decisions before they left school. Half the states now require students to learn about financial literacy.


But is a stand-alone class necessary? California students must pass a one-semester course in economics to earn a diploma. It's supposed to include financial literacy, and it could include more. (The quality of the class is uneven because many social studies teachers don't know much economics. They probably would do better focusing on budgeting.)


Adding graduation requirements by popular vote seems like an odd way to decide curriculum. A bill that's nearly identical to the initiative is in the Assembly, though similar legislation has failed to become law.


Another proposed bill, AB 2097, would add computer science as a graduation requirement. It also does well in polls.


The state’s new ethnic studies and media literacy requirements started as bills in the Assembly, Jones adds.


Students won't have time for electives if the list of required classes keeps growing, warns Bruce Fuller, a Berkeley education professor. “With more requirements, we’re giving them almost no chance to study things they’re actually interested in.”

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6 Comments


m_t_anderson
May 12

What in the Hell are they teaching in all the other subjects? Has no English teacher expounded the Micawber Principle from David Copperfield? Has no algebra (or business math) teacher ever presented the compound interest formula? (Of course teaching anything from the Bible is anathema in California, so "seven fat years and seven lean years" is outside their schema). What DO they teach?

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superdestroyer
May 13
Replying to

Risk is a concept that most adults cannot understand. What makes anyone think that high school students can comprehend the idea of financial risk. And it takes more than calculating net present value to understand it.

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Darren Miller
Darren Miller
May 10

You know what I fear? Because it'll be required for graduation, such teachers will be pressured to water down the curriculum or pass students that shouldn't pass just so graduation rates don't take a nosedive--which they invariably will if you add another requirement. Don't we do that enough already, do we have to create another class for that?


I have enjoyed teaching financial math--checking/savings/CD accounts, payment methods (hourly/salary/commission/etc), reading pay statements, W4/W2/1040/540 (the California income tax form), buying a car, budgeting, and the list goes on. Financial math is a valuable and enjoyable subject, but I'm against yet another graduation requirement.


Remember, grad requirements at the state level aren't overly burdensome, but by the time the districts add in their…

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Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
May 11
Replying to

Financial mathematics may be valuable and enjoyable as an elective, but once you start forcing into that classroom students who don't want to be there but who are being required to be there by amateur curriculum-makers, its quality will decline, and we'll have yet another reason to stop attending California's public high schools, and to join the exodus out of this misgoverned state.

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superdestroyer
May 10

As always, when this comes up, a long dicussion on what exactly needs to be included in "financial literacy." It the students are struggling with math, what makes anyone think the students can learn the future value of money?

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