New Law Would Require Financial Literacy Class in High School

By Susan Jacobson
Feb 23, 2015

Science, math and English are important, but students in Florida also need to learn how to manage money before they graduate from high school.

So say advocates of a bill before the Legislature that would mandate a stand-alone, financial-literacy course for public-school students.

The proposal is the third step in a plan that began in 2013, when a new law required that economics classes include financial literacy. Now, state Sen. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, sponsor of SB 92, wants to go a step further.

“You’re giving them the skills, preparing them for the real world so they can take charge of their financial future and be better prepared for the decisions we all have to make,” Hukill said. “People always complain that there’s a disconnection between education and the real world. Well, here’s a connection.”

A similar bill (HB 29) has been filed in the House by Rep. Heather Fitzhagen, R-Fort Myers, and Rep. Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah Gardens. Both have bipartisan support and the endorsement of various business and education groups.

Many students at Coral Glades High School’s finance academy are already taking a course similar to the ones being proposed, in addition to the personal finance portion of economics.

But right now the class is optional. Steven Carruth, principal of the Coral Springs school, said it would be problematic to make it mandatory for all students.

“Then they would lose an option to take an AP course, a dual enrollment course or a vocational course,” he said. “I don’t disagree with the teaching of it. It’s vital, but teachers do embed it in the economics classes.”

Seventeen states, including Florida, require personal-financial instruction in high school, but only five — Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia — require a stand-alone course, according the Council for Economic Education in New York.

The Florida Department of Education estimates that a dedicated course would cost between $116,581 and $8,143,344 the first year, depending on whether online materials or books are used. This is the second year that Hukill has tried to get her bill passed.

Kathi Gundlach, president of the Palm Beach County Classroom Teachers association, said financial literacy classes should not be required.

“More and more classes are being mandated, and they’re usually unfunded,” she said. “We don’t have any money for books or to do it. Financial literacy is already included in the course work.”

The consequences of financial illiteracy came into stark focus during the Great Recession as many people found themselves underwater on their mortgages or lost their homes to foreclosure. Some ruined their credit or were forced into bankruptcy, hurting their chances in the job market, where some companies use credit history to assess potential employees.
Student debt is another albatross. In Florida, 53 percent of students at public and nonprofit private colleges and universities graduated in 2013 with an average debt of more than $24,000, a study by the Institute for College Access & Success found.

Some critics of a mandatory class say parents, not schools, should teach children money management. But a study by the Council for Economic Education found a third of parents are more comfortable talking to their children about smoking, drugs and bullying than money.

A 2011 survey conducted by investment firm Charles Schwab seems to support the need for more education. Although 77 percent of participating teens said they knew how to manage money, only 38 percent said they understood how to establish good credit, 35 percent could balance a checkbook, 31 percent knew what a credit score was, 22 percent understood income taxes and 17 percent knew what a 401(k) plan was.

“If we don’t educate students on the forward end, we’re going to pay for it on the back end the way we did with the mortgage and home-loan crisis,” said Mark Anderson, a lobbyist for the Florida Council on Economic Education.


Legislature Passes Bill Mandating Financial Literacy

WFSU Public Media
By Ryan Dailey
May 2, 2019

In the first legislative session since the passing of Senator Dorothy Hukill, lawmakers have pushed through a piece of legislation she backed for years. The bill creates a mandatory financial literacy course for high school students.

“This is so important to me, because of my good friend, Senator Dorothy Hukill,” Hutson said. “She fought so hard for this piece of legislation, and I’m glad we can do it for her.”

That’s Republican Senator Travis Hutson, who became emotional as the bill passed in his chamber Thursday. Hutson carried the legislation this session on behalf of his late friend and colleague. He calls it “transformational” for the state’s education system.

“It’s stuff that, if you hadn’t learned it, you would go through it in the growing pains of becoming an adult – trying to stumble through figuring it all out. We do a crash course in a half a semester,” Hutson said after filing the bill in February.

Hutson says as it stands, financial literacy curriculum is packed into about two weeks of a high school economics course.

“I’d rather them learn more microeconomics in economics, because they do learn a lot, and then get into financial literacy on its own – and not be shoved into a two week curriculum,” Hutson said.

But the creation of a half-credit financial literacy course isn’t all the bill does. It also looks to breathe life back into career and technical education, or CTE, in high schools.

“It creates a new 18-credit CTE pathway to high school graduation with a focus on vocational and technical training,” Hutson said.

And, for students who aren’t excelling in the traditional academic pathway to graduation, it will require districts to inform those students of the more career-oriented option.

“It requires an academic advisor on CTE options for students who are at risk of not graduating, and fall below a 2.0,” Hutson explained.

When students are ready to move on to the next phase of their lives, Hutson says, they’ll have a day to be recognized:

“It establishes a college and career decision day to recognize student for their post-high school plans.”

With respect to the financial literacy course, Hutson says ultimately it will work out to a cost savings for the state.

“I think when you look at financial literacy, we’ve got a lot of people who are going into debt and are trying to figure out life at a young age,” Hutson said. “And if we can teach them this, even if there’s a front end cost – the back end benefits are going to be tremendous to the state.”

When it came time for a Senate vote, the measure passed unanimously. And the chamber’s president, Senator Bill Galvano, had some heartwarming words for Hutson before moving on to the next bill in the waning days of session.

“Senator Hutson I am absolutely confident that Senator Hukill’s looking down, smiling, and she loves that 40-0,” Galvano said.

The bill will now head to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis, who is almost certain to sign it into law. DeSantis has been a vocal supporter of career education in the K-12 system since before taking office.