Carl H. Lindner College of BusinessCarl H. Lindner College of BusinessUniversity of Cincinnati

Carl H. Lindner College of Business

Teaching Finances More Important Than Ever

Submitted: 9/8/2010 12:09:57
  • Economics Center's John Morris, Education Director talks about the importance of teaching our youth personal finance and discusses the education mandate, Ohio Core - new finance and economics requirements for high school graduation.

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In 2006, I wrote an article advocating for a personal finance teaching requirement for all Ohio students. It has now been four years since former Gov. Bob Taft's administration passed Senate Bill 311, an education mandate known as the Ohio Core. Part of mandate was a requirement that all Ohio high school students receive personal finance instruction as a part of a required high school course. It was a delayed mandate, allowing schools time to prepare, and comes into full effect with this year's incoming high school freshman - the graduates of 2014.

Since 2006, our economy has dramatically changed (for the worse). We have record job losses and unemployment, an ongoing recession and a roller coaster stock market. The American Dream of owning a home doesn't make as much sense as it once did. At least we can be thankful that the Ohio Core legislation of 2006 is working to ensure that our children will learn from these lessons in school. Right?

In 2010, I would love to report that all of our schools have embraced the mandate of SB311 and have taken great strides in the past four years to train their teachers and develop courses in personal finance. It would make sense to take these steps in education so that the poor financial choices that led us into this economic crisis will not be repeated. I would love to state that 100 percent of today's students will be graduating from an Ohio high school with a strong foundation in personal finance.

Since 2006, many of our school districts have taken tremendous steps forward in personal finance education. Districts like Mason, Reading, Madeira, Sycamore and Cincinnati Public have redesigned courses and invested in teacher training. Many of these redesigned and now required Personal Finance courses carry enough rigorous content that their high school students could earn University of Cincinnati college credit while still in high school.

However, the Ohio Core legislation is clear in stating that all schools shall (a very strong legal word) implement financial literacy into a required course. Unfortunately, as easily as I can rave about work at some districts, I can cite just as many schools that have done little over the past four years. For many, the approach has been "what gets tested, get our focus," and there is currently no standardized test for personal finance in schools. The personal finance "test" for Ohio citizens comes from life choices after school, and we are failing. Although my organization has reached out to most, and stands ready to help any other school in our region, we've had no contact from many school districts and others have responded to our attempts to help by stating "our (school) folks feel pretty good and think we've got it covered."

It is time for members of school communities to stand up and start asking their schools to unveil their personal finance teaching plans.