Assembly Bill Would Require Financial Literacy Credit for High School Diploma in Wisconsin

Wisconsin high school students would have to complete a financial literacy credit in order to receive a diploma under a bill being considered by a state Assembly committee. The bill would go into effect for the 2022-23 school year.

The 11 sponsors of the bill in the Assembly and the three sponsors in the Senate are all Republicans.

State Rep. Alex Dallman, R-Green Lake, is one of the bill’s sponsors. At an Assembly Education Committee hearing on Tuesday, he said the requirement would give students an education they could use for the rest of their lives. He noted a survey that found 70% of millennials live paycheck to paycheck, compared to 40% of baby boomers.

“It’s something that would be very beneficial for their future,” Dallman said.

Wisconsin schools are already required to include financial literacy standards in their K-12 curriculum under a bill that former Governor Scott Walker signed into law in late 2017. The current bill would add to these standards rather than replace them.

Senator Joan Ballweg, R-Markesan, sponsor of the Senate bill, said that while the standards are a good first step, many high school students still graduate without taking any personal finance courses.

“I believe that every child deserves the opportunity to receive quality personal financial education in high school,” Ballweg said. “The decisions they make early on entering adulthood impact the rest of their lives.”

A growing number of schools in Wisconsin already have a financial literacy requirement for graduation or are planning to add one. Milwaukee Public Schools, for example, aims to have their requirements in place for all students by 2028.

Oconomowoc High School, meanwhile, added a personal finance requirement in 2017. Career and technical education teacher Laura Schoenike noted how technology has changed and continues to change the world of personal finances.

“Social media platforms such as TikTok and friends are now providing financial advice, some legit, some predatory,” Schoenike said during the hearing. “Keeping up with all the different apps and news from the rising and falling markets is as addictive as the latest game download, but the thing is, it’s not a game.”

She argued that giving students a 21st century knowledge of personal finance would impact every aspect of Wisconsin’s economy.

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“An ounce of prevention is better than cure,” Schoenike said. “We have the power to offer this prevention in the form of education.”

A budget estimate of the bill found it would increase costs for school districts, due to the expenditures required for curriculum development, verification of credit completion, and increased staff to teach classes. .

The Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance and the Wisconsin Association of School Boards both opposed the bill, with the latter calling the legislation a potential “unfunded mandate”.

“It is unclear how school districts that are already facing teacher supply issues would be able to find and pay teachers to fulfill this proposed mandate,” the School Boards Association said in its memo. ‘opposition.

Rep. of State Sondy Pope, D-Mt. Horeb, asked if adding just one compulsory high school class would give students the knowledge they need.

“Just as I wouldn’t wait for my child to enter high school to talk to him about finances and teach him everything he needs to know as an adult, I don’t know why we would expect that to happen like magic to a high school student,” Pope said. “Why aren’t you willing to give (by 2017 standards) a chance to happen so that we start talking about these things when the kids are very young and that they have just started school, and that we take advantage of this throughout their school career?

Pope also questioned the ability of schools to be able to provide long-term finance courses.

Ballweg acknowledged concerns about cost, but noted already existing standards and groups willing to provide materials and assistance to teachers and schools for finance courses.

“We don’t have to reinvent the wheel for each of our school districts,” Ballweg said.

Financial lobby groups such as the Wisconsin Financial Services Association have filed a request to support the bill and its companion legislation in the Senate.

If the bill leaves the committee, its next stage would be the Plenary Assembly.

Louis R. Hancock