Next fall, Florida high school students may be required to learn how to pay taxes, balance a checkbook and manage loans.
If lawmakers pass Senate Bill 212, the required credits for a standard diploma would be revised to replace one-half of an elective credit with a financial literacy course.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, said it is crucial for young people to learn how to manage money, especially at a time when many graduates are saddled with hefty student loans.
High school economics classes dabble in financial literacy, and it is offered as an elective in Florida schools, but Hukill said that is not enough.
“They haven’t made plans to prepare for paying for college,” said Hukill, who filed the bill in September. “Everyone just kind of assumes it’s going to happen. They don’t know what interest rate they’re paying. They really don’t know how to handle a bank account. They’re going to be faced with situations they aren’t prepared for. It’s something that has to be taught. You have to have some basics.”
According to a Florida Department of Education analysis conducted in October, costs for implementing a stand-alone, half-credit financial literacy course statewide would depend on whether it is offered online or in the classroom, as well as the number of textbooks districts choose to purchase.
Costs vary from less than $140,000 to offer the course online to more than $11 million to offer it in the classroom with a book for every student.
Sen. John Legg, R-Lutz, Senate education committee chairman, supports the idea of exploring financial literacy options, but worries it could add to the workload of teachers and students who are getting used to a new set of academic standards. Florida students will be tested on the Common Core State Standards next school year.
“The bill is well-intended and the scope of it is needed in a high school curriculum,” said Legg, a former teacher and co-founder of the Dayspring Academy charter school in Pasco County.