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A community survey completed in 2012 indicated that the Douglas County School District needs to provide more financial-literacy education. Since May of this year, school board member Steven Peck has made it his mission to do that.
“People don’t seem to recognize the threat that debt presents on an individual and macro level,” said Peck, pointing out “everybody is going to have a payment of one kind or another.”
The lack of financial literacy — a term used to describe the ability to understand how to manage money — stretches farther than Douglas County. A 2015 National Financial Capability Study completed by FINRA Investor Education Foundation, which on its website says it uses grants from nonprofit organizations and agencies to research investor behaviors, revealed that 39 percent of some 25,000 American adults found it somewhat difficult to cover bills and pay for expenses.
Only 17 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance, according to a 2016 survey from the Council for Economic Education, which focuses on the economic and financial education of students from kindergarten through high school across the United States. Colorado is not one of them.
Ffinancial literacy “deserves its own pedestal and own time, and it should occur in high school,” Peck said. “At what point do we get to talk about some of these more advanced things that will impact students moving forward?”
The board of education passed a resolution in July requesting staff to compile information on current financial-literacy offerings in Douglas County schools.
The results, presented by Matt Reynolds, chief assessment and data officer for the school district, at an Oct. 17 board of education meeting, show that about a quarter of high school students are taking a course that includes some financial literacy.
School board member David Ray said he supports any school that wants to add a financial-literacy class. But he thinks mandating every school in the district to require such a class would have financial implications and would be overbearing.
“Where I have issues is when we, as a board, all of sudden force it down all schools’ throats,” Ray said. “Obviously, fiscally, we have to be really responsible and not just assume that since it sounds like a good idea, we are going to go out and spend a million dollars.”
The board of education also has requested that the district come up with three different options on how to offer financial literacy, which include: keep the graduation requirement at 24 credits and equip teachers with tools to teach financial literacy; add half a credit to the graduation requirement to include a financial literacy class; or add one credit to the graduation requirement to add one year of financial literacy.
The last two options, which require materials, staff and training, are costly: Adding a half-credit elective course across the district would cost upward of $1 million and adding a one-credit elective would double that amount, according to Reynold’s presentation.
A financial literacy task force, comprised of 10 to 12 active volunteers, will meet several times over the next few months to discuss the future of financial literacy in the district. Recommendations will be presented at a December school board meeting. If the board approves a recommendation, it is likely that it will not take effect for another five years, when the school district’s financial standing improves, Peck said.
Although Peck — who was appointed to the board last year and decided not to run for a full term in the recent election — will no longer be on the board when a decision is made, his hopes remain high.
“This really isn’t a partisan issue,” Peck said. “It will affect all students.”
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