A new state law requires Arizona school districts to teach financial literacy skills. Arizona joins 24 other states that mandate some degree of K12 financial literacy instruction.
Missouri, Tennessee, and Utah, which require students to take one semester of financial literacy in high school, have the strongest laws while other states, like Arizona, are only required to blend financial literacy into other subjects, such as math or economics.
State Sen. Kimberly Yee, a Republican who sponsored the Arizona bill, says the legislation gives districts flexibility to create their own financial literacy curriculum, starting in elementary school. Younger students could learn counting and monetary denominations, while older students might be taught to create personal budgets, use credit cards, and how to pay off loans.
“We really wanted to get the message across to districts of how important these skills are for students that leave to go on to college or start their careers, while allowing districts to keep local control over the curriculum,” she says. “Students should be prepared early on, not playing catch up later in life.”
Financial literacy advocate and Arizona native Sharon Lechter worked with Yee to pass this bill. She says requiring basic financial skills in school is vital.
“Money is a life skill no matter who you are, whether you’re a waiter or a CEO,” Lechter says. “The country now has the highest unemployment rate for 18-24 year olds, and it’s imperative that we teach financial literacy, especially with the downturn of the economy over the last couple of years.”
Yee and Lechter say the law does not cost state or local districts any money. Various organizations provide free online program and curriculum materials, such as practicalmoneyskills.com and www.tomorrowsmoney.org, that educators can download.