Arizona Senate Considers Mandatory Financial Education to Tackle Future Challenges

Arizona is considering adding a compulsory semester of financial education in public schools, but some state representatives are skeptical of the new proposal.

New Education Bill Proposed

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A new bill, Senate Bill 1058, was passed by the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.

It was voted in by 6-1, but if it makes it to the full Senate, much of the committee has said they will refuse to support it in its current form 

Compulsory Personal Finance Course

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The bill would require all public school students in Arizona to pass a personal finance course before graduating.

Educational Trend

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According to Sharon Lechter, a member of the state treasury’s financial literacy task force, these compulsory classes are already being instated in public schools across the country.

Already in 25 States

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Lechter noted that 25 U.S. states have adopted similar finance courses in their official state curriculums as of 2024, compared to just six states in 2019.

More Is Needed

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While Arizona has already included certain financial topics in high school economics classes, and aspects of financial teaching can be found in other K-12 classes, some believe that more is needed.

A “To-Have Skill”

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Sen. Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, the chairman of the Senate Education Committee described financial literacy as a “to-have skill.”

He explained, “We have to start figuring out how to help our K-12 students be ready for life, and this is one of the most important areas that I think we have generally … not been doing as much as we could and should.”

One Semester Course

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This separate course would focus on personal finance and would take up at least one semester.

School districts would have the freedom to choose how topics are implemented in the course and would choose topics that include investing, budgeting, retirement planning, and home ownership, among others.

For the New Class of 2024

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If the bill is passed, all Arizona high school students who enroll in the fall of 2024 will be required to take the new financial education course in order to graduate before 2028. 

Not Until 2028

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However, current students would not be affected by the new course, and it would not be compulsory for anyone who graduates before 2028.

Concerns Are Raised

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Concerns were raised by the committee, many of whom felt that there should be more leeway in how schools are expected to include the class in existing curriculums.

In particular, the issue was raised by Sen. Christine Marsh, D-Phoenix, the only member who voted against the bill.

Call for Flexibility

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Marsh felt that schools should have more options for choosing how the subject fits into dedicative elective spaces, as it could take away other study options for students. 

“A Little Bit Disturbing”

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“In some cases, that is what keeps kids in school. Some kids, they need their honors choir class. They need their art class. They need their theater class,” she said.

“To take something like that away kind of randomly is a little bit disturbing.”

Fiscal Report Requested

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Marsh, along with committee member Sen. Catherine Miranda, D-Phoenix, requested a fiscal impact report, which would outline the financial expenses to establish the course in curriculums statewide. 

Will the Cost Outweigh the Benefits?

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Significant time, logistics, cost of labor, and more would be required to implement the course, and some committee members were concerned that these requirements would outweigh the benefits of the course. 

A Minority of Students

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According to a presentation given to the Arizona State Board of Education by state Treasurer Kimberly Yee on Jan 22, only 1% of Arizona students are guaranteed to attend finance classes before graduating high school.

Future Financials

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However, many more will face financial obstacles soon after graduation, such as managing student loan debt, credit card debt, and potential emergency expenses. 

Connection Between Family and State

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“I believe there is a direct correlation between the fiscal health of a family inside their homes and the greater fiscal health of the state of Arizona,” Yee told the Board. 

Action Can Be Taken

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If the bill goes ahead, legislative action can be taken to require the State Board of Education to adopt necessary changes to the course. The board can also make changes if the bill is not passed. 

More Details Needed

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The Treasury’s financial literacy task force presented the bill to the Board of Education last month, and while most board members expressed enthusiasm, many also sought clarification and specific details.

They Need the “How”

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“We need the plan, and then the plan needs to be presented to stakeholders,” said board member Jacqui Clay. “I get the ‘why,’ but we need the ‘how’ for educators to feel good about this.”

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The content of this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute or replace professional financial advice.

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