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Montgomery County Public Schools could add a financial literacy course requirement, district leaders said this week, but it would mean reducing the number of credits required in other areas or increasing the number of credits needed to earn a diploma.

In October, student school board member Hana O’Looney asked the district to explore the feasibility of requiring high school students to take a half-credit class on concepts like filing taxes, applying for student aid and understanding credit scores.

She said it is the “single most” common request from students she speaks with.

In a report to the school board on Thursday, district leaders said the addition could be possible by either:

• Increasing the number of credits required for graduation from 22 to 22.5
• Decreasing electives credits by 0.5
• Decreasing the physical education requirement by 0.5 (MCPS currently requires a full credit, which is more than what the state requires)

If implemented, the requirement would begin with the graduating class of 2028.


The report also said that the school board should consider the consequences of implementing a new required class, such as:

• Its impact on students’ ability to pursue other courses that interest them
• Staffing implications
• How it would affect the number of students “in danger of not graduating.” For example, according to school board documents, 1,138 seniors this year are taking a full schedule of courses required for graduation.

Alternatives to making the course a requirement would be to increase access to an electives course for high school students; provide the lessons in a math course; or develop “modules” that are not credit-bearing but are required for graduation, similar to student service learning hours.


O’Looney, however, said she doesn’t believe the course should be optional.

“Paying taxes is not an optional thing in life, so I don’t think, personally, learning how to manage that process should be an optional process for students,” she said. “Honestly, as a school system, I don’t think our job is done with our students and we can confidently say our students are really ready for college, career and community until they have these basic fundamental skills.”

The school board is expected to make a decision in the spring.


Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at