Personal financial literacy is an important skill for Douglas County students to develop, some school board members said at a Dec. 12 board of education meeting, where recommendations for how to better implement the subject were presented. But costs, school preference and other priorities in the district should come first, they said.
“I think one of the things that we want to do more of as a governing board is to be clear about the 'what' and let the schools figure out the 'how,' ” said board President David Ray. “My sense right now is that we need to be careful that we don't adopt these recommendations because all of a sudden we are micromanaging or pushing down into our schools how to do this.”
Financial literacy enables students to manage and understand finances, including bank accounts, budgets, credit, debt and investments, according to the Colorado Department of Education. Right now, only 17 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance, according to a 2016 survey from the Council for Economic Education, which focuses on the economic and financial education of students from kindergarten through high school across the United States. Colorado is not one of them.
Under Colorado academic standards, schools are required to integrate financial literacy into social studies classes.
Since May of this year, former school board member Steven Peck has made it his goal to strengthen financial-literacy education in Douglas County. The former board of education passed a resolution in July requesting staff to compile information on current financial literacy offerings in Douglas County schools. The results, presented by Matt Reynolds, chief assessment and data officer for the school district, at an Oct. 17 board of education meeting, show that about a quarter of high school students are taking a course that includes some financial literacy.
Peck also spearheaded the creation of a financial literacy task force, which over several months researched trends and presented its findings at the Dec. 12 board meeting. The task force, made up of parents, former board members and established business professionals, found that the risks of not managing finances are increasing, obstacles achieving financial security are increasing, the global market competition is increasing and consequences of mistakes can be severe.
Peck was appointed to the school board to fill a vacant seat in November 2016. His seat was up in the Nov. 7 election, but he chose not to run.
The task force also gave several recommendations, including elevating the priority of financial literacy, modifying the graduation requirement to include financial literacy and making financial literacy a component of a capstone project.
Peck said there is a “moral obligation” to prepare students for financial security in the future. He urged the board to utilize no-cost or low-cost options, such as Junior Achievement, a volunteer-based organization that provides programs that teach work-readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy skills.
“All of us will have an auto payment,” Peck said to board members. “Hopefully, all of us will have a mortgage.”
Board member Anne-Marie Lemieux wasn't in favor of the recommendations.
“Changing graduation requirements is extremely expensive,” said Lemieux, adding that the topic is “incredibly important.” She said she supports teachers pre-K through high school in implementing the state standards on financial literacy.
Board member Krista Holtzmann voiced concerns about other priorities in the district, including funding in secondary schools and the strength of world language and AP classes. She doesn't minimize the need for financial literacy, she said, but there are other needs to identify and address.
The board will continue to discuss financial-literacy education options in Douglas County and will have district staff review the recommendations.
“If any of this is implemented then we need to go through a cost analysis and make sure that we are making good decisions,” Ray said.
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