Florida Lawmakers Must Prevent Corruption of Personal Finance Education

Neetu Arnold

Editor's Note: This article was originally published by RealClearEducation on March 16, 2022, and is crossposted here with permission.

Florida may become the seventh state to require financial literacy education as a graduation requirement. The Sunshine State currently requires schools to offer personal-finance education as an elective course. But a new bill in the state senate, Financial Literacy Instruction in Public Schools, would require that Florida high schools mandate students to take a half-credit, stand-alone financial literacy class. Topics covered would include skills such as how to balance a checkbook, manage debt, and maintain a bank account.

Florida’s education system incorporated financial literacy under the Next Generation Sunshine State Standards for Social Studies in 2014. By 2019, the state had created a separate, more in-depth course.

Americans increasingly see the importance of helping young people develop strong financial habits to avoid monetary hardships, such as those related to student loan and credit-card debt. But as the National Association of Scholars has reported, educators may try to corrupt personal-finance instruction with radical social-justice agendas. It’s important for legislators to remain vigilant and prevent the distortion of an otherwise benign subject matter.

The financial literacy bill is a step forward in mandating that the subject be a stand-alone class. Students can thus focus on the materials directly related to money-management issues.

On the downside, however, it appears that financial literacy will remain under the purview of the state’s social studies standards. The new bill still lists the financial literacy policy for the 2023-2024 academic year under topics addressed by Florida’s social studies standards.

Lawmakers should anticipate that educators will use social studies to further political agendas. In 2019, the president of the National Council for the Social Studies encouraged teachers to use the field to prepare students for activism. It would be better to associate financial literacy with a career and technical education department whose purpose is more aligned with the practical nature of personal finance education.

Another area of caution: one priority of Florida’s financial literacy policy will have students learn about “receiving an inheritance and related implications.” Those related implications could encompass peripheral topics. In Oregon, for instance, where financial literacy is part of the social sciences standards, second-graders learn “how inherited wealth and scarcity affect individual and group power.”

Florida lawmakers should not let educators push Marxism-infused topics such as the supposed ills of generational wealth or class privilege. The policy should be reworded to make clear that what is covered is the matter of “receiving an inheritance” – period. State lawmakers could also require schools to post lesson plans online for greater transparency.

The new bill also doesn’t specify when high school students should take a financial literacy course. This should be modified. The state should require students to take the financial literacy course two or fewer years away from completion to ensure that students retain relevant skills closer to graduation.

Florida has already proven itself as a leader in battling the corruption of standard curriculums in K-12 schools. With some proactive alterations, the state’s new bill will strengthen financial education for students as well.

Neetu Arnold is senior research associate at the National Association of Scholars and the author of Priced Out: What College Costs America. Follow her on Twitter @neetu_arnold.

Image: Alexander Mils, Public Domain

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