State Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, pre-filed a bill Thursday that would have students complete a financial literacy program before graduating high school.
“Our kids are really smart — smarter than we were,” Parrett said in a news release. “We are graduating some of the most technologically savvy high school students the world has ever seen. They are smart in many ways, but too many of them are financially illiterate.
“We need to ensure they are learning basic economic concepts and one way to do that is through required financial literacy education,” Parrett added. “This would be one of the best educational requirements we would have for our students.”
BR 248 directs the Kentucky Department of Education to develop the Kentucky Financial Literacy Program as a graduation requirement.
Under this measure, each local school’s site-based decision-making council would determine how and where a school would incorporate financial literacy standards into its curriculum. Any student pursuing an early graduation program would be required to complete the instruction prior to graduation. The education department would set a timeline for school implementation and monitoring.
Parrett also pushed this measure last session, but SB 106 died in committee during the 2017 legislative session. Joining him in testimony during legislative hearings was Elizabethtown High School teacher Alex Todd, who taught financial literacy as an elective at the school for 20 years. Todd said this legislation would mean all students would be reached with practical knowledge before they graduate.
In the past decade, Todd has gone from teaching 20 students financial literacy to 120 a year.
“The students want to be in there, the parents want them to be in there and we need them in there,” he said.
For the past three years, Todd said the school has given students a financial literacy exam before they begin the course. Before the course, students average 55 percent, meaning they are financially illiterate. After the course, students average 92 percent, he said.
Having all students across Kentucky take a financial literacy class would prepare them for their own financial futures, Todd said.
“If we don’t teach the knowledge, we can’t expect the behavior to change,” he said.
Financial literacy would teach students practical information Parrett said would help them in life.
“I believe that requiring students to take financial literacy could be one of the most impactful pieces of education legislation passed in the commonwealth in many years,” he said. “It would impact all students – those from far western Kentucky to far eastern Kentucky, those from the north and from the south, and all the students in between. Being financially literate is important for everyone.”