The Financial Planning Association today testified before the Washington, D.C. City Council to ask officials to incorporate financial education into the District's high school curriculum.
"Every student in this country needs financial literacy," said Mary Bell, the FPA's Assistant Director of Government Affairs. "We teach our kids subjects ranging from geometry to chemistry, yet we don't teach them about the potential dangers of compound interest. And what's the result? They go to college and go into debt abusing credit cards."
Schools in the nation's capital came in last in an annual Education Week study published last week that ranks states and the District in six areas of performance and policy.
"While we think this type of education ought to occur everywhere, there is not a better place to start the ball rolling than in the nation's capital," Bell said.
Bell testified as part of the Greater Washington Chapter of Jump$tart, a group that promotes financial literacy. She helped found the D.C.-based chapter two years ago. Bell's testimony underscored the importance of moving forward on a 2007 law requiring the District to establish a financial literacy council. "There must be a sense of urgency to establish financial literacy programs integrated in the curriculum of all schools to effectively build awareness and skills and influence positive consumer behavior," Bell testified.
"The emphasis should be on teaching students about savings, managing expenses, using credit responsibly, buying a home and investing for their future," she said, adding that such training could be staffed by trained teachers, Jump$tart volunteers and FPA members.
The city has not set a timetable yet for implementing financial curriculum into its high schools. But it is clear that the District's lack of financial literacy among high school students is not unique. The Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy's most recent survey showed that high school students nationally scored just 52% on a basic financial literacy test. Bell encouraged the council to have D.C. students take Jump$tart's financial literacy exam to benchmark students so classes can be taught accordingly.