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Two Maryland lawmakers are proposing legislation to require all state high school students to take a course in financial literacy.

The bill by Delegates Jay Walker (D-District 26) and Carl Anderton Jr. (R-Wicomico County), scheduled for a public hearing Friday before the House Ways and Means Committee in Annapolis, would mandate school boards to create content for a half-semester course in financial literacy for every public high school — or, more succinctly, “a student shall complete a course in financial literacy in order to graduate.”

According to the Council for Economic Education, every state and the District of Columbia include some form of financial education in kindergarten through 12th grade.

However, the New York City-based organization assessed only half the states’ school systems require high school students to take an economics course. The company’s “Survey of the States” report released this month shows the figure increased by three states from 22 during its previous report in 2018.

Nan Morrison, president and CEO of the council, said money continues to be spent on coding, career and technical education, resume writing and other programs for students.

But “we do all of these things to get them employed and get them on the path to economic mobility and we forget the economic stability point [such as] how to actually manage a paycheck,” she said Thursday. “I think that’s craziness.”

The survey mentions a 2019 report from Montana State University on how state-required financial education allows high school students to analyze and understood how much money to borrow when applying to college.

“Financial education graduation requirements increase applications for aid, the likelihood of receiving a grant, and acceptance of federal loans, which are all low-interest means of borrowing,” Montana State researchers Carly Urban and Christiana Stoddard said in the report. “At the same time, financial education decreases the likelihood of holding credit card balances, and the education reduces higher-cost private loan amounts for borrowers. For students from lower-income families, financial education reduces their need to work while enrolled, which likely increases their probability of graduation.”

The survey highlights Maryland remains one of the 25 states and D.C. that don’t require high school students to take an economics course. In addition, the state joins 29 others and the nation’s capital to not mandate personal finance education in high schools.

Walker and Anderton look to change that distinction, particularly Walker, who has tried to implement this policy for seven of the past eight legislative sessions since 2012.

Meanwhile, the Prince George’s County school system proposes within the fiscal year 2021 budget to establish a pilot program to teach financial literacy at one of the high schools next school year. If successful, the goal would be to roll out the program at all the high schools.

School board member Belinda Queen said the chosen school would be Oxon Hill because of a Junior Achievement program. The county houses a Junior Achievement Finance Park in Landover where middle school students visit and stop at makeshift storefronts to learn how to balance a budget and choose whether to purchase a home, a vehicle and even health insurance.

“We really want to do [financial literacy] at all the high schools,” Queen said. “If [students] had this in their everyday world, they would understand how their parents are working to pay the rent, to pay the gas and electric. … Once they learn how to budget, then take the next step to learn the proper way to invest. This would help them tremendously.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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