By Gerri Elder
While the current housing market crisis and general economic downturn in the United States will require a relatively immediate fix, many educators are thinking long-term when it comes to preparing kids for financial independence.
The Tennessee State Board of Education is slated to vote on a measure that will mandate a personal finance class for high school students. While current high school students have an elective personal finance class available at many high schools, the proposed class would first be required of current seventh-graders across the entire Tennessee Public School system
Governor Phil Bredesen is pushing these changes in the classroom, as well as a general review and reform of the ways that high school students are prepared for practical life in the state, based on meetings he held last year with prominent businessmen in the state who expressed concern over this student preparation.
Clearly, the time for such measures is now. According to the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, only 29.8 percent of Tennessee students passed a test on personal finance management and general knowledge of finances. This number was roughly ten percentage points lower than the national average of 38 percent.
This test scoring is just the latest piece of evidence for many school administrators and legislators that the students in their state aren't up to the task of managing personal finances. One financial planner quoted in The Tennessean reports that the scores of people in their 30s and 40s whom he sees on a daily basis still make basic financial mistakes have convinced him that this kind of program is long overdue.
According to the National Council on Economic Education, at least seven other states have similar personal finance management programs for high school students.