Educating Florida high school students about how to manage finances is the aim of a new state bill.
House Bill 367, which was submitted in December, would require each high school student in Florida to take a course in financial literacy before receiving his or her diploma. The 60-day legislative session to discuss the bill began March 4.
The bill is in the committee phase. If approved, the course will teach students about various topics, including credit cards, debt and interest rates.
Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, one of the bill’s sponsors, said these are important life skills not being taught that students often struggle with after graduation.
Fitzenhagen said business people in the community expressed concern about students who are coming into the workforce without basic finance knowledge.
Edward Metzger, the legislative assistant for Fitzenhagen, said there are only a few weeks left in the subcommittee schedule to fully discuss the bill. He said all the co-sponsors of the bill constitute more than one-third of the chamber. Although he is hoping this will lead to a majority in favor of the bill, Metzger said it is uncertain.
“People like the idea,” Metzger said. “So we’ll just continue to move forward and do what’s best for the students, teachers, parents and the state of Florida as a whole.”
Several states, including Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia, already require the class, according to a 2013 national study by Champlain College. The study focused on state efforts to improve financial literacy among high school students.
Only seven states require students to take a financial literacy course, according to the study. Florida is one of 11 states that allow schools to teach the course as an elective.
Thirty-nine other representatives co-sponsor the bill, including Rep. Keith Perry. Having a third party educate young adults about finances is advantageous, Perry said.
“It would be nice if we lived in a society where parents brought all that information to their kids,” he said. “But the reality is that it’s just not happening.”
Perry said young adults have limited knowledge of basic financial literacy, which can include interest rates, services fees or late charges.
However, Jackie Johnson, the public information officer for Alachua County Public Schools, said if the bill passes, the course may be difficult to in include in student’s hectic schedules. Teachers may also have to go through a certification or training.
Johnson said students must earn 24 credits to graduate, and they generally earn six credits each semester. With an added financial literacy course, Johnson said the class could either replace a current credit or become another required credit.
Students already have financial literacy in their curriculum at Florida Virtual School. It is taught as part of an elective economics course.
Kimberly Testa, the curriculum specialist at Florida Virtual School, said financial literacy is a useful skill for anyone, especially for students who are now dealing with financial issues, such as student loans.
“If a financial literacy bill passes and a new course is required, then we will develop that to meet the needs of our students,” Testa said.
Fitzenhagen said her main goal is to improve the quality of life for future students and citizens.
“They may not be financial experts at the end of the course, but they will certainly know the right questions to ask and be better equipped for life as an adult,” she said.