`Financial literacy' wins Carroll OK

Effort to reject student requirement fails

October 12, 2006|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN REPORTER

Carroll County students will be required to take a "financial literacy" course to graduate, despite an effort at last night's school board meeting to quash the proposal.

Board members voted 4-1 to require students beginning next school year to take the half-credit course that will cover concepts such as money management, consumer rights and responsibilities, credit, savings and investing.

Carroll joins a handful of Maryland school systems -- including Harford, St. Mary's, Talbot and Baltimore counties -- with a similar requirement.

Nationally, 14 states, including Virginia, require a financial literacy course to graduate. Maryland and the District of Columbia do not have such a requirement.

Board member Cynthia L. Foley -- who voted against the proposal -- said she was reluctant to make the money course a requirement based solely on school officials' assertion that there is a national crisis among teens who lack knowledge of financial matters.

"I'm not seeing any Carroll County data," said Foley, who added that she felt financial literacy is something parents should be teaching their children at home. "I don't want to make this a graduation requirement based on nationwide concerns."

School officials, however, said they conducted "pre-tests" of about 30 students taking the financial literacy course this semester and the highest score was about 60 percent.

"Most were much lower," said Marjorie Lohnes, the system's career and technology supervisor.

Foley said as the board adds more requirements, it is limiting choices that students have to develop career interests.

But board member Patricia W. Gadberry said that while she considers her family to be financially responsible, she didn't feel confident that she could teach her children all of the concepts that a financial literacy course would cover.

"I just don't have the experience," she said.

Gadberry said she supported requiring the course because she didn't want parents to feel that the board had failed the county's students.

Sherri-Le Bream, the county's director of high schools, played down Foley's concerns that the additional requirement would tax the system's teaching staff, but board President Thomas G. Hiltz said the change would require about 10 teachers each year.

Hiltz said the required course also would cost the school system about $600,000 annually.

"While we may not see additional resources requested, it will mean that about 60 current high school courses will not be offered," said Hiltz, who initially supported Foley's effort to reject the graduation requirement. "This is a significant financial and educational trade-off."

Meanwhile, the board's student representative, Maggie McEvoy, said students she knows "overwhelmingly support" the requirement.

"It's something our students need," she said. "Our school system's goal is to turn out students who are responsible and prepared."

gina.davis@baltsun.com

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