Basic Understanding of Common Financial Issues

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. It’s tax day and who can argue with teaching our high school students to fill out a tax return or balance their checkbook? Apparently, some ranking members of the State House.

Balancing your checkbook or filling out a tax return are just two of the things high school students would be required to learn in a financial literacy course. The half-hour course would be mandatory starting this fall. It would take the place of an elective. A coalition of banks, credit unions and others are pushing the idea.

Mark Anderson of the Florida Council on Economic Education is among the supporters. "It does one simple thing: it teaches kids how to manage their money before they graduate from high school"

The bill sets thirteen benchmarks, including how to apply for a loan, figuring out the interest on a credit card, and even how to contest an incorrect charge. Senate Sponsor Dorothy Hukill says it only makes sense. "They can be faced with these issues almost immediately. How do I sign a lease? What does it mean? What does a debit card mean? Kids are more in debt now than ever before."

Financial institutions are banking on the idea that better educated students will mean they'll write off fewer bad debts. They also like the idea of successful people making more deposits.

The legislation has cleared two Senate Committees by 6-3 and 12-1 votes. But it can’t get a hearing in the House.

Mark Anderson says no one’s really saying why the bill won’t be heard...but there are rumblings. "To the extent we've received any feedback, it's been perhaps there's a concern on the part of increasing more requirements at a time when maybe the legislature wants to take a breath from that."

Teaching financial literacy would cost the state as little as two hundred thousand dollars or as much as 8 million if a text book were needed for every student.

The legislation was filed after a state Council on Economic Education study found that almost half of all high school seniors in Florida lack a basic understanding of common financial issues.

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