Maryland lawmakers aiming to tackle financial literacy for 11th, 12th grade public school students

MARYLAND – When Maryland students graduate high school, they walk away with a diploma. But what lawmakers and financial experts say those graduates are missing, is important lessons on how to manage their money. “We need people to understand, when they’re coming out of high school, the importance of saving, the consequences of financing, how a credit card works, how interest is compounded,” said Delegate Wayne Hartman.

Learning The Financial Ropes

That includes things as small as how to create a personal budget, to long term goals like one day being able to buy a home. “This is about owning a piece of the American Dream. I want to see all our children – Black, white, green – to be a part of it, because when they go up, everybody rises. Let’s rise together,” said realtor and financial advisor Edward Lee.

House Bill 630 would teach 11th and 12th grade public school students just that, through a five year pilot program. “There are parents who are pleading to work with the school system, but don’t know how and have never had that experience,” said Lee. “It allows [students] a vision of what they can do. A value system is created around spending. A value system is created around saving.”

Leveling The Playing Field

Lee says it’s especially important to make sure that students have a level playing field when they enter the consumer world, regardless of their race or socioeconomic status. “A large percentage of people and families are in poverty,” he said. “We have a large immigrant community – Hispanic, Haitian – who don’t understand the dynamics of the financial institution.”

In small, rural communities, financial literacy is especially important, according to Lee. “We’re dealing with institutions and institutional behavior. Many institutions don’t want to do that. They say ‘Stay in your lane.’ Well, you’ve got to cross over the lane every now and then to get to the other side,” he said.

Working Together

As lawmakers consider the bill, concerns have been raised over how long the trial period is. Questions about how making financial literacy a permanent part of education will work, are also circulating. But, Lee says lawmakers are working closely with the Maryland Department of Education (MDE) to tackle those issues. “If this issue falls by the wayside, our community will stay at the same level of awareness and continue to slip behind in terms of mobility and quality of life,” he said.

Written testimony must be submitted to Delegate Benjamin Brooks at Benjamin.Brooks@House.State.MD.US by 8 p.m., February 14th. That testimony will be read during a Ways and Means Committee meeting on Thursday, January 17th at 3 p.m.

Committee member Del. Hartman says he plans to support the bill. “I try not to support anything that involves curriculum because the Board of Education, I think, does that best. But in this case, financial literacy is a really important issue,” he said.

Bridging The Gap

If the bill passes, it would go into effect on July 1st, 2022. Until then, Lee says he’s already looking forward to helping expand the bill to grade levels 8, 9, and 10. “These are important issues. But, we can’t just say ‘Here, General Assembly, you pass it and pass it over to MDE without our input.’ We must be engaged in this process,” he said.

Lee says closely monitoring financial literacy requirements, and ocntinuing to push the issue will only set Marylanders up for a more equitable, and stable future. “When the time comes for change in academia in terms of the agenda, who are we going to be responsible to for what they want taught?” he said.

Until then, Lee is hosting financial literacy seminars through Teach Them To Fish LLC. The next seminar is February 19th, at the First Baptist Church of Salisbury from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Another seminar will happen on September 17th.

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