On Wednesday, the Senate Education Committee took up financial literacy in high school education, which has been a hot topic this year. Jess DeCarolis (Student Pathways Director, Agency of Education) shared that the Agency of Education (AOE) could not support requiring a specific class as a graduation requirement, calling it “highly disruptive” and “incredibly destabilizing to the public education system.” Her remarks were directed at H.228, to which she submitted written testimony. Chairman Campion jumped in to say that they had not “invited her here to talk about H.228,” but rather they were interested in “what is happening currently around financial literacy.”
Martha Deiss (Proficiency Based Learning Global Citizenship Coordinator, Agency of Education) stepped in and shared the adopted learning standards from the State Board of Education (SBE). Specifically, she pointed to the development of a module that will support students in financial literacy under the Jump$tart Standards in K-12 Personal Financial Education, which is already a SBE adopted standard.
She shared that there was some sentiment that the standards were not rigorous enough for the college, career and civic life standards previously in place. The old standards contained 14 economic indicators, but only 3 were in personal finance. In 2018, the SBE along with the Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College developed the Jump$tart Standards. The two-year partnership brought us to this point.
Campion asked if any high school seniors would be able to differentiate between micro and macroeconomic concepts. Deiss responded that Jump$tart and the C3 standards incorporate a citizenship approach to both levels. Campion noted that he is receiving pressure to “beef up financial literacy” in schools and he stressed they will not likely get much more active in Committee this year except to request continued input from the SBE and the Agency of Education.
Senator Gulick appreciated their perspective but encouraged them not to “conflate economics with financial literacy.” She wanted to “bring it always back to equity, and financial literacy is a really critical equity issue in education.” Her point is that students who get financial literacy at home growing up puts them on a path to building generational wealth. That is a powerful tool we can offer students, she commented.
DeCarolis took the opportunity for another jab at H.228, saying that the bill “will actually exacerbate equity gaps in its construction versus achieving the goal” of increased exposures for students to financial literacy education. She pointed to the requirements set at the state level being too prescriptive and actually creating obstacles for students seeking class schedules that allow for both choices and graduation goals. Additionally, access is dependent on professional development and curriculum for all students. Ensuring the financial literacy is available also empowers students in all sorts of challenging life situations to achieve generational wealth. She is advocating for it to be integrated across multiple disciplines for this reason.