Lawmakers pushing Florida high school diplomas to require financial literacy

Financial Literacy — Courtesy: Shutterstock — Monthira

Florida lawmakers are considering making a financial literacy course a requirement for high school graduation as more states look to improve the younger generation’s understanding of how to manage their personal finances.

A bipartisan bill making its way through the Florida House of Representatives would require high school students to earn a half-credit in money management and personal financial literacy. If the bill is passed, it would take effect starting with students entering their freshman year of high school in the 2022-23 school year, making Florida the sixth state to require taking a stand-alone course in financial literacy for graduation. 

The course would cover completing loan applications, checkbook balancing, insurance, inheritance, computing federal income tax, and “contesting an incorrect billing statement,” among other topics. 

The draft legislation’s goal is to “better prepare young people in this state for adulthood by providing them with the requisite knowledge to achieve financial stability.”

A different version of the bipartisan bill is currently undergoing vetting within the Florida Senate. 

The bill, along with similar education laws that were passed in other states, such as Virginia, aims to tackle a national problem: a large percentage of Americans suffer from financial illiteracy. According to a recent report by the Milken Institute, gaps within financial literacy levels along socio-demographic lines are also much broader in the United States than in other developed countries. 

“The financial literacy gap between men and women in the US is about 37 percent wider than the [38-country Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development] average and about 59 percent wider than the world average,” the authors of a 2021 report published by the think tank wrote. “Inequality in financial literacy among adults is relatively high in the US,” they said, even when compared with emerging economies.

The issue is marked among the younger generations, according to the Council for Economic Education, a New York-based nonprofit organization whose mission is “to equip K-12 students with the tools and knowledge of personal finance and economics so that they can make better decisions.”

According to the group, “one in six students do not reach the baseline level of proficiency in financial literacy.”

Every one in four millennials spends more money than they earn. About two-thirds of that generation “have less than 3 months’ worth of emergency funds,” the council says.

Florida’s draft bill passed the state House’s PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee and the Secondary Education & Career Development Subcommittee this month. The Education & Employment Committee will see it on Wednesday, and then needs backing on the floors of the House & the Senate.

So far, no lawmaker in the state’s House or Senate has voted against the bill’s latest adaptations.

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