Financial literacy gains traction as part of high school curriculum

November 30, 2009|By Laura Smitherman | laura.smitherman@baltsun.com

Comptroller Peter Franchot has been going back to high school as part of his push for requiring that seniors take a course in financial literacy in order to graduate.

The proposal for a graduation requirement has met with resistance from lawmakers and educators who are wary of imposing curriculum mandates, but Franchot said the recent recession has convinced him that basic personal finance concepts must be taught. Franchot, the state's chief tax collector, has visited seven high schools since the school year began and plans to push for legislation during the General Assembly session that begins in January.

"Given the hard economic times and all the economic anxiety out there due to people making bad mistakes with debt and credit, I think the timing may be right for a successful initiative," Franchot said. "We need to make sure our young people are prepared with the basic building blocks of financial prosperity."

The Maryland State Department of Education is circulating a draft state curriculum that incorporates personal finance concepts into all grades. For instance, the proposal dictates that by the end of the fifth grade, students would be able to define loans and interest, and by the end of the 12th grade, students would be able to explain how to acquire and maintain credit.

But a separate course required for graduation is not part of the plan. Instead, the department is suggesting curriculum standards and allowing local leaders to choose how to best provide students with financial instruction across the learning levels, either with stand-alone courses or embedded in other courses.

Local school boards also could require financial literacy as a graduation requirement, as has happened in a handful of jurisdictions including Carroll and Allegany counties.

"We just don't want to dictate how it is done at this point," said William Reinhard, a spokesman for the Maryland education department.

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