Financial literacy class could soon be a graduation requirement

By  | 

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - A bill that would require high school students in the state take a financial literacy course to graduate is one step closer to becoming law after passing through a house subcommittee Monday afternoon.

It's not uncommon for students to leave high school with an understanding of subjects like cell division, while at the same time lacking personal finance skills. House Bill 955 seeks to change that.

The legislation would require all high school students to take a half-credit course specifically focusing on financial topics like paying taxes, interest, and balancing a checkbook.

Supporters say 17 other states have already implemented similar requirements.

"These states now know that students who go through a required course actually have different behaviors," explained Mark Anderson with the Florida Council on Economic Education.

Bill Sponsor Heather Fitzenhagen hopes to bring Florida into those ranks.

Dr. Joseph Calhoun, an associate professor at Florida State University and avid supporter of the bill, said he's been consistently surprised at the lack of knowledge his incoming students have.

"To my amazement, only half the students could give me a detailed explanation about the difference between a stock and a bond," Dr. Calhoun told us.

Some schools do offer similar courses as options to students. High school junior Tabitha Schlader is taking one such class next semester.

"I'm actually lucky. My dad is really good in that kind of field and work, so either way, whether I take it or not, I would have learned, but I do think it is beneficial because some people don't have that resource," said Schlader.

By making the credit a requirement for graduation supporters hope no students will be left behind.

"If they don't know how to leave high school, head off to college and understand how to survive in the world, we would have done them a tremendous disservice," said Representative Fitzenhagen.

If passed, courses could begin as early as fall of 2017. The bill has to pass through one more committee before being brought to the house floor.