Financial Literacy graduation requirement may be added

Dec. 6, 2021, 2:52 p.m. | By Joy Song | 2 years, 4 months ago

MCPS Board of Education passed resolution regarding financial literacy graduation requirement

On Oct. 5, Student Member of the Board of Education (SMOB) Hana O'Looney proposed a resolution asking MCPS interim superintendent Monifa McKnight to explore the possibility of offering a semester-long mandatory financial literacy course beginning with freshmen in the 2023-2024 school year. 

At the Board of Education's Oct. 26 meeting, high school students from around the county spoke in favor of the proposed graduation requirement. In O'Looney's November newsletter, she announced that the resolution passed unanimously at a meeting on Nov. 9. The Board of Education will complete a feasibility study on this new graduation requirement by January 2022 and will then revote to finalize their decision.

The push for the requirement has been led for many years by different groups of people. "People have been asking about financial literacy, particularly making it a graduation requirement, for decades, and no one's ever been able to get it through. Some of the board members I sit with have even tried themselves, but it's very contentious to add a new graduation requirement," O'Looney said.

Therefore O'Looney, who visits students around the county, was pleasantly surprised by the magnitude of support for this new graduation requirement. "I honestly expected to get pushback because students don't want an additional graduation requirement. But I have heard a resounding 'yes' from so many students of all walks of life that this is something that they would like to have and that they support it," she said. 

Students learn financial literacy in Financial Literacy Club. Photo courtesy of Jonas Laufer.

Blair sophomore Katie del Toro supports the resolution, as she believes the county has not done  enough to ensure students are financially literate. "I'm hoping [the new graduation requirement] will change [the situation], but up until now schools don't really prepare us for real world things. They prepare us for college. They don't prepare us for life," del Toro said. 

O'Looney points out that financial literacy is essential to everyone, regardless of their future plans. "I think financial literacy is undeniably something that is relevant to each and every single one of our lives. Whether you're going to college or not, whether you want to be a car mechanic, a lawyer or anything else, everyone is going to have to deal with [taxes and managing one's own wealth]," she said.

The resolution included expanding financial literacy electives to all 25 MCPS high schools by the 2022-2023 school year. Currently, only six schools offer such electives, including Blair. Personal Finance, the semester-long course, covers key components of financial planning, like budgeting, investing, insurance and taxes. The course, which began at Blair just two years ago, has five sections and over a hundred students enrolled this year.

Personal Finance teacher Kevin Murley believes that a semester is not enough time to cover all that financial literacy entails. "I could take three years and still not get through all of the topics that really would be pertinent and interesting for kids to learn relating to personal finance and financial literacy," Murley said. 

However, Murley does believe it is enough to understand the basics. "[A semester is] a good start and I think kids get a really solid overview of all the major financial topics that they would need to manage themselves out there in the world successfully," Murley said.

Though some colleges offer financial guidance to students to prevent rash financial decisions, AP Government teacher Sean Gabaree believes it does not hurt to learn beforehand. "Some colleges are starting to sort of talk to kids early on, but I think giving that same information to seniors may be helpful, since they're going to start working, are going to go to college and make those decisions," Gabaree said.

Regardless, the new graduation requirement, if approved, will fill a gaping hole in the MCPS curriculum. "From my perspective, it is one of the critically important areas that has been neglected and overlooked," Murley said.

Last updated: Dec. 6, 2021, 2:57 p.m.

Tags: elective graduation financial literacy

Joy Song. Hi! My name is Joy, and I'm a staff writer. Apart from writing for SCO, I enjoy reading and listening to music. More »

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alumnae3 — 2 years, 4 months ago

I think a financial literacy class being mandatory is a great idea. Teaching how cashaspp and venmo over a certain amount must be reported. Teaching that accepting loans greater than neccessary in order to get a refund check is a BAD idea. Teaching that if you must take a loan, take a subsized loan. Also, I am still waiting for African American History to be made a graduation requirement.

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