California gets a failing grade for financial literacy training in high school
When it comes to personal finance education, the people of California may have some complaints with their school systems.
As part of our ongoing coverage of financial literacy, we’re taking a close look at what the experts say about how well each state is doing in teaching high-schoolers about personal finance and economics.
According to two recent surveys by Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy and The Council For Economic Education (CEE), here’s how California stacks up against other states for teaching financial literacy at the high school level:
California’s grade from the Center for Financial Literacy
Ten states and the District of Columbia share the dubious distinction of an “F” grade: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota and Wisconsin.
Among the reasons cited for the low grade:
“Personal finance is not included in California state graduation requirements, either as a stand-alone course or embedded in another course, and schools are not required to offer financial literacy courses. Graduation from high school in California requires students to take three years of social science, including U.S. history and geography, world history, culture and geography, one semester of American government, and one semester of economics.”
There is a great deal more detail in the full Center for Financial Literacy report available here.
California’s 2018 report card from The Council for Economic Excellence
The Council for Economic Excellence does not hand out specific grades but does measure a number of factors when looking at how a state is upholding the goal of educating young adults about money, including:
- whether there are financial education courses offered
- whether the taking of such courses is required
- whether there is standardized testing to measure progress toward better financial literacy.
- California does not require financial education courses in high school to be offered
- California does not require that one or more of those financial education courses be taken
- California does not require standardized testing on financial literacy
For comparison, here’s how many states and the District of Columbia hit that goal in the 2018 survey:
- 22 states require financial education courses in high school to be offered
- 17 states require that one or more of those financial education courses be taken
- 7 states require standardized testing on financial literacy
Overall, California is in a last-place position when it comes to educating its kids and young adults about financial literacy, according to the CEE report.
Across the USA, there is a lot of room for improvement in financial literacy education at the high school level
Nationwide, the Council for Economic Excellence reports in its 2018 report that there has been little increase in economic education in recent years and no growth in personal finance education. You can see the slowdown in this timeline from CEE:
“Research shows,” the CEE reports, “ that requirements are the main driver of economics and personal finance being taught in schools. CEE works with our nationwide network of affiliates to both advocate for requirements and assist in their implementation.”
Among the benefits of an economically-educated populace, the CEE says, are these:
- Greater propensity to save for retirement
- Reduced amount of personal debt
- Increased likelihood of having emergency savings
- Less likelihood of using high-cost methods of borrowing
Personal finance expert Dave Ramsey agrees. https://www.daveramsey.com/blog/should-financial-literacy-be-taught-in-schoolsHe argues that financial literacy classes are essential because they teach students the basics of money management: budgeting, saving, debt, investing and giving.
In “Should Financial Literacy Be Taught in More Schools?” Ramsey writes:
As a country, we’ve seen where a lack of personal finance education can lead. Millions of Americans struggle every day with their money, living paycheck to paycheck and relying on credit cards for necessities, only to wind up deep in debt and short on hope.
Beyond that, many Americans are finding that they can’t buy homes, invest for retirement, or save for their child’s college fund because of their own student loan debt, massive car payments, and general lack of financial planning.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. A lot of the money problems Americans are facing could have been avoided if financial literacy was taught earlier, in school.That’s why we think more schools should offer financial literacy courses as part of their graduation requirements.
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