Future Montgomery County high school students could be required to take a financial literacy course on concepts like filing taxes, applying for student aid and understanding credit scores.
Hana O’Looney, the student member of the county’s school board, pitched the idea during a meeting on Tuesday, saying it is the “single most” common request from students she speaks with.
“At every single school and every single grade, I’ve heard students say they wish what they were learning was more relevant and applicable to their lives,” O’Looney said.
O’Looney’s proposal asks the school district to explore the feasibility of creating the 0.5-credit course and implementing the requirement beginning with the graduating class of 2028. If approved by the school board at its next meeting on Oct. 26, a report would be due by January.
MCPS offers an elective financial literacy course at five high schools, O’Looney said, but only about 200 students enroll at each school every year.
“It’s enough to keep the courses going, but we’re not really reaching most MCPS students,” O’Looney said. “… I don’t think we can continue to say our graduates are ready for the workforce or for college … when they don’t know how to file their taxes, many of them don’t know what a credit score is or how to manage student loans or apply for financial aid.”
A 2016 survey by the Bank of America and USA TODAY found that about 31% of people age 16 to 26 agreed that their high school education did a good job of teaching them healthy financial habits.
A 2014 study found that recent graduates in states where personal finance education was mandated were more likely to have higher credit scores and reduced default rates than their peers in bordering states.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot has long advocated for mandated financial literacy curriculum in Maryland. A candidate for governor in 2022, his campaign website dedicates a page largely to the issue, chastising the state for having a “high school curriculum [that] lacks the appropriate focus on certain real-world skills like financial literacy.”
Franchot was appointed to the Honorary Board of Trustees for the Maryland Council on Economic Education. At the time, he said: “Economic education is critical to lifting generations out of poverty and building strong futures. We must ensure core financial principles are instilled in every student and young adult so they can pursue a good-paying job and a high quality of life that is the foundation of the American dream.”
In July, the school board denied a charter school application that would have established the county’s first business-focused middle school. The school planned to eventually expand to include high school students.
School board members were concerned the school could not maintain adequate funding to remain open and denied the application.
Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org