Financial literacy lessons have real life implications immediately after students learn them, Dawn Rottinghaus said.
The Kansas House would seem to agree with the Wellsville High School business and technology teacher. Lawmakers recently approved House Bill 2475, which mandates “financial literacy” as a requirement in Kansas schools. The bill moves on to the Kansas Senate for consideration.
Wellsville and West Franklin school districts already have made personal finance classes a requirement for graduation.
“Everything I teach is applicable to the kids in the real world once they step out of the school setting,” Rottinghaus said. “Every unit I teach is either hands-on or real world for the kids.”
Such classes are not required, however, for high school students at Central Heights and Ottawa schools. But that doesn’t mean they are far behind Wellsville and West Franklin; both schools offer several courses covering aspects of personal finance. Central Heights’ and Ottawa’s independence on how they cover financial literacy might soon come to an end if House Bill 2475 passes the Senate and is signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback.
The bill was approved in the House March 19 on a 110-12 vote, with support from Franklin County’s Statehouse delegation — state Reps. Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, and Rep. Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa.
Money management is important on a personal, state and national level, Jones said, noting financial literacy can help prevent problems that start at the personal level and evolve into state and national problems.
“I truly feel like financial literacy is one of our biggest issues here in the United States and Kansas,” Jones said. “I truly believe if we have our financial literacy correct, then everything else will work out. I think it’s hard for government entities to get their money correct. If we have financial literacy in the schools, then we start our kids off right, and start our own lives off right.”
Central Heights High School’s informal personal finance curriculum is spread across four classes that relate to finance literacy in several settings: economics, business, consumer education and accounting, Tom Horstick, Central Heights High School principal, said. If the state mandates a standalone financial literacy course, he said, the class likely would streamline the information already being presented to students.
The process at Ottawa High School nearly is identical to Central Heights, with aspects of personal finance covered in business, economics and math classes, Ryan Cobbs, OHS principal, said. The current format might be more beneficial to students than a standalone course mandated by the state, Cobbs said, because the information is spread out through an array of classes during all four years of high school.
“[Personal finance] actually gets hit on multiple times throughout all four years, which, in my opinion, is a better opportunity than hitting on it as a freshman and never taking it again,” Cobbs said.
West Franklin’s personal finance class has been a requirement for three years, Rick Smith, West Franklin High School principal, said.
Wellsville’s required course begins in the 2014-15 school year, Josh Adams, Wellsville High School principal, said.
Mandating the course for all Kansas schools would benefit students across the state, Rottinghaus said, noting that many of her students are happy they took the class and wished to take it during their junior and senior years when they are more mature and understand the importance of finance. Rottinghaus’ business and technology classes also cover career development, accounting and economics.
“I think it allows the students to be more knowledgeable and have a real feel for what the real world is like — as far as dealing with money,” Rottinghaus said. “I think credit is a huge issue with the kids. I think being able to spend their money and budget their money is a large issue as well.
“I can honestly tell you every kid that graduated from my class will tell you it’s a very worthwhile class.”