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Florida high school students may soon be required to learn about personal finance

The bill would impact new 9th graders starting with the next academic year.
The bill would impact new 9th graders starting with the next academic year.

Florida students may soon be required to earn a half credit in personal finance and money management under legislation getting bipartisan support.

Rep. Demi Busatta Cabrera, R-Coral Gables, says her bill (HB1115) is designed to prepare all students for life after high school. “This bill will make sure that students know banking practices, money management such as spending credit scores, managing debt, loan applications, basic principles of insurance policies, federal income taxes, and local tax assessments,” Busatta Cabrera told the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee.

The bill would take affect for students going into high school as 9th graders in the 2022-23 academic year.

“The fact that you can have real life experiences thrown at you when it's kind of only make believe, before you actually get into the real world is outstanding, and definitely needed right now,” said Rep. Fred Hawkins, R-Saint Cloud, who recalled taking a similar class in high school. “I think that too many people don't worry about savings and debt and how that happens. So if we can teach our children now differently, I think it's just outstanding you're bringing this bill.”

School districts must offer a half credit financial literacy course as an elective, but it’s not a graduation requirement.

Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Weston, is a former Broward County School Board member. She told the committee her district was ahead of the curve in offering a financial literacy course. “So I hope when DOE is working on developing the curriculum, they look to us also to make sure that there's an online component as well because the half credit fits in nicely to meet the online requirement for virtual. I think this would have been better for my daughter than taking PE online but whatever,” Bartleman laughed.

“I think this is the right message to send that we should make sure that our children understand the value of money,” Rep. Matt Willhite, D-Wellington, said in support of the bill. But he’s concerned about how it changes elective requirements. Students would need 7 ½ credits in elective courses to graduate instead of 8.

“We already require algebra, algebra 2, trigonometry, geometry, all those different things that some people never use in their life,” Willhite said. “Maybe this would have been a space where this could have been taught in one of those classes potentially, that might have freed up and still allowed that elective time because I think that's real-life experience math versus some of these other classes.”

If her bill passes, Busatta Cabrera said Florida would still be the state with the most elective credits available to its high school students. “Whether our students are headed to one of our great colleges or universities, a valuable trade or apprenticeship program, the military or career in the arts, every single one of them deserves to be equipped with education and information on how to succeed and thrive financially in our society,” Busatta Cabrera said.

The bill has passed two House committees and needs to get through another before going to the House floor. A similar bill (SB1054) is ready for consideration by the full Senate. Both bills have unanimously passed every committee so far.

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.