Understanding money and how to use it to reach one’s financial goals is a skill often learned by trial and error. The results are sometimes costly and poor decisions can have big impact on financial security. That’s why a new state law requiring high school students to gain financial literacy in order to graduate is being hailed as a much needed addition to curricula.
State Sen. Paul Cicarella, who represents the 34th District, which includes Durham, East Haven, North Branford, North Haven and Wallingford introduced the bill for a financial literacy graduation requirement bill along with state Sen. Henri Martin. Gov. Ned Lamont signed it into law in July, making Connecticut the 22nd state to do so.
It will go into effect with the class of 2027 and aims to give students a solid basis in finances before they enter adulthood. Credit cards, loans, bills and taxes are among the financial concerns that students must learn to navigate, according to a story by Record-Journal reporter Rachel Wachman. She writes that “every high school student in Connecticut public schools must take a half credit financial literacy and personal financial management course in order to graduate.”
Wachman quotes Cicarella as stating, “We graduate our students and expect them to go into the real world, which they need financial literacy for. … This is something we really had to do for the state of Connecticut and for our students graduating and going into the real world.”
Cicarella’s statement brings into focus a situation that most of us can readily recognize. Handling money is a learnable skill and a critical one. How to save, invest, budget and set financial goals are topics that most adults find themselves considering every day, in one way or another. How to do these things well can be mysterious and scary to anyone, but perhaps especially to a young person setting out in life.
“This course will help give every student a better shot at financial success, particularly those who are
not fortunate enough to be given the opportunity or the resources to receive this kind of instruction at home,” Lamont said in a statement. “Financial education is as important as math, science, and reading.”
Some local schools already offer financial literacy classes and will only need to add extra sections and tweak the classwork in order to meet the state requirement. However, finding staff and working the requirement into the budget will take some work, according to school officials who spoke with Wachman.
Southington High School offers a personal finance class and a class on money management with around 250 students taking the class as an elective. More sections will be added.
Meriden Public Schools offer a personal finance class at both Platt High School and Maloney High School through the Career Technology Education department, according to Wachman. The class follows the Next Gen Personal Finance curriculum, with units on behavioral economics, banking, investing, credit, insurance, taxes, budgeting, paying for college and more. Meriden currently also has a grant-funded financial literacy program at the middle school level.
Meriden Public Schools Director of Technology Susan Moore told Wachman that “We already have the curriculum, we already have the computer labs where the class takes place, and we already have the teachers who are certified to teach the class.”
While there will be challenges to implementing the new requirement, Assistant Superintendent for Southington Public Schools Frank Pepe emphasized to Wachman how important financial literacy is to students’ success.
And that success is not just for the individual’s needs, according to Southington Director of Teaching and Learning for Secondary Education Amy Zappone. She told Wachman “Being financially literate is one of the components that makes the contributors to the local and global community. Knowing how to manage money will help them achieve this goal.”
It’s a little surprising to see Connecticut so late to the game in enacting this requirement, but it’s great to see that some local schools are way ahead of the legislative action – already offering robust elective financial literacy classes. With the new law, all students will have a chance to improve their money-managing skills and, with those skills, go on to have less financial stress and more financial success.