Florida senators look to pass financial-literacy course requirement for graduation


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (News Service of Florida) Florida senators are renewing a push to require high-school students to pass a financial-literacy course before graduation, though at least two lawmakers are concerned about students being squeezed for time during the school day.

The proposed requirement, long championed by Senate Education Chairwoman Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, was unanimously approved Wednesday by a Senate budget panel and appears to be moving quickly as lawmakers prepare for the January start of the 2018 legislative session.

Senators unanimously passed a financial-literacy bill during the 2017 session, but it died in the House.

Under the bill (SB 88) approved Wednesday by the Senate Pre-K-12 Education Appropriations Subcommittee, high-school students would be required to pass a half-credit course that would include instruction in issues such as bank accounts, credit cards, loan applications and insurance policies. The requirement would take effect for students entering ninth grade next year.

“The reason for doing this, obviously, is that we want to provide our students with financial management skills and the knowledge that is needed so they can achieve financial stability and independence, especially as they move on out of high school and either enter the workforce or continue on with their education,” Hukill said. “They’re all going to be faced with things like probably getting a credit card, signing a lease, computing interest. And these are the kind of things that this bill would require to be taught to our students.”

But two senators, while supporting the bill, expressed concern that the requirement would further reduce the amount of time that students have for other subjects. To accommodate the half-credit course in financial literacy, the bill would lead to a half-credit reduction in the required number of electives.

“This is one-half credit less for electives, and that generally means art and music,” said Sen. Bill Montford, a Tallahassee Democrat who works as chief executive of the Florida Association of District School Superintendents. “And the underlying issue of all of this is that we are still stuck on a 180-day school year for basically seven hours a day. At some point, I think we as a Florida Legislature have to address the issue, are 180 days, seven hours a day, is that enough for what we expect our children to be exposed to in an education?”

Similarly, Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, said he supports Hukill’s bill but hopes lawmakers will look at expanding the school day.

“I had a bill last year for health education, something that I also think is very needed for our young kids,” Farmer said. “And we just don’t have enough time in the day for all these extracurricular matters that we would like to include.”

But Hukill said students have numerous options in taking electives, many of which are half-credit courses. She also said financial-literacy courses should be separate from economics courses.

“I think this course needs to be a stand-alone course, and that’s the movement throughout the country,” Hukill said.

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