Legislators debate requiring financial literacy course

The fight over required courses for high school students wasn’t just about English and social studies on Monday.

Legislators on the House Education Committee discussed a bill that would require a personal financial literacy course for high school students.

Jack Sossoman, former Shawnee County leader of Americans For Prosperity; state Treasurer Ron Estes; and Walt Chappell, president of Education Management Consultants, answered several questions from the committee members after endorsing the legislation.

“How these kids can go out and survive without those basic math principles and understanding how the world works? We’re sending them out as sheep to the wolves,” Chappell said. “We’re sending them out for every scammer to take advantage of them and to get into hot water very quickly.”

Several of the representatives used some of their personal stories of financial literacy with their own children.

Rep. Melissa Rooker, R-Fairway, said this class wouldn’t have fit into the class schedule for her son, who was taking college prep courses and a music elective.

After nearly an hour of questions for Chappell, Carol Werhan, of Pittsburg State University, provided testimony about the bill.

“Our philosophy is that personal finance must be taught contextually in order to change behavior,” Werhan said.

Werhan said family and consumer sciences teachers are the best people to teach these things. Some of the problems are getting the FACS teachers into the needed areas of the state.

Tom Krebs, a government relations specialist with the Kansas Association of School Boards, testified in opposition to the legislation.

Krebs talked about how local communities and school boards can determine what is necessary. He said it would be a mistake to make it an institutionalized process for every student because some would miss out on an art or music class in order to take financial literacy.

Mark Desetti, director of governmental affairs for the Kansas National Education Association, also testified against the bill.

“Requiring this course for a lot of kids that don’t need it is not the way to go,” Desetti said. “What we need to do is work on the standards we have and deeply assess them and make sure they are happening.”

Some high schools students were at the Capitol on Monday for K-ACTE 2014 Legislative Day for presentations on career and technical education. A few of them were open to the bill.

“I think it’s a great idea because a lot of people don’t know what to do when they get out into the real world,” Manhattan High School student Payton Gehrt said. “ If people would know how to take care of their personal finances at an young age, I think that would help them later in life.”

This story was originally published by The Topeka Capital-Journal on February 10, 2014. 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s