BOSTON – Last week, the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation that would incorporate civics education into public schooling (S.2375), including requiring students to complete a civics project to graduate, as well as a financial literacy bill (S.2343) aimed at improving students’ knowledge on saving, investing, insurance, banking, inflation, and other financial matters.
“Today’s youth are bombarded with a multitude of financial options and responsibilities at an increasingly young age, yet many are ill-equipped to make informed decisions about financial matters,” said State Senator Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton), the lead sponsor of the financial literacy bill. “By teaching children the financial education basics in school, we will help them make educated financial decisions in the future, preventing future bankruptcies, foreclosures, and unmanageable debt. The investment we make in teaching our children financial literacy now will pay substantial future dividends.”
S.2343, An act relative to financial literacy in schools, would allow personal financial literacy to be integrated within the existing mathematics, social sciences, technology, business, or other curricula where teachers have the capacity to teach financial literacy for all schools in the Commonwealth.
The complexity of the American financial services market has made millions of consumers vulnerable to misleading and fraudulent business practices, which has bankrupted families, ruined communities, and contributed to the “Great Recession.”
According to a recent report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data, total household debt in the United States rose to an all-time high of $13.15 trillion by the end of 2017. Mortgage debt constitutes $8.88 trillion of total debt, while credit debt accounts for $834 billion. 2017 was the fifth consecutive year of annual household debt growth with increases in mortgage, student, auto, and credit card debt.
The bill directs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to create and implement standards and objectives on personal financial literacy for grades K-12. This would include information on loans, borrowing money, interest, credit card debt, online commerce, rights and responsibilities of renting or buying a home, saving, investing and planning for retirement, banking and financial services, balancing a checkbook, state and federal taxes, and charitable giving. The Student Financial Literacy Advisory Committee created in the FY13 budget will advise and oversee the development of such standards and objectives.
At least 20 states now require students to take a personal finance course or personal finance included in an economics course as a high school graduation requirement. By incorporating financial literacy in K-12 education, Massachusetts residents will be introduced to financial concepts earlier in life, and be better equipped to make prudent decisions based on their needs and budget considerations.
S.2355, An Act to promote and enhance civic engagement, enacts a hands-on and experiential approach to fostering civic engagement. The bill incorporates project-based learning components, encourages the instruction of civic competencies – including news and media literacy – and provides extracurricular civic-participation opportunities.
“Civics education is fundamental to an informed citizenry and a sustained democracy,” said Eldridge. “In this age of unprecedented misinformation, teaching youth about how our government works and how to consume news with a critical lens will empower our future generation of leaders and change makers.”
The bills now go to the House of Representatives for consideration.