Not all Mandates are Created Equal: a 2022 Legislative Recap

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Another round of state legislative sessions has mostly come to a close. Financial education was a hot topic this year, with 30 state legislatures proposing a total of 117 bills tied to the issue. Our Policy and Advocacy team has been tracking the progress of these bills, specifically those with a K-12 financial education mandate. Three bills that passed, a budget provision and two bills still in progress are of considerable interest.

Background

K-12 financial education mandates are state-level requirements that students must take a personal finance course in order to graduate. Not all 117 bills directly deal with a mandate, but all involve a financial education program for K-12 students. Examining the K-12 financial education mandate legislation, we evaluated the following components:

  • Whether the course was truly mandated or just optional
  • Length of course
  • If the course was stand-alone or integrated into other course offerings
  • Timing of course
  • Funding
  • If the bill expanded educational resources for students

Of the 117 bills introduced by state legislatures, 24 were passed and signed into law by the Governor, while 58 bills failed (either by vote or the legislative session ending). There are 35 bills still in progress as of the publishing of this article.

Three of the 24 enacted bills include a financial education mandate. Here is a summary of each of them.

Florida

Florida passed SB 1054, the Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act. The legislation states that this course will be a half credit (equal to a semester), can be taken at any point in high school and is a stand-alone course. This will replace a half credit of elective requirements. The requirement goes into effect for students entering ninth grade in the 2023-2024 school year.

Strengths: This is a statewide mandated course so students, regardless of district, will receive the same instruction.

Possible Challenges: Allowing the course to be taken at any point in high school can provide flexibility, but taking the course too early may not be as beneficial to students in the long run. Financial education is most effective when topics and tools link to decisions that learners are readily able to make.

Georgia

Georgia passed SB 220, The Georgia Civics Renewal Act. The legislation states that this course will be a half-credit to be taken in either the 11th or 12th grades, and the course can either be stand-alone or integrated into an existing course. The course can count toward math, social studies or elective credits required for graduation. The requirement goes into effect for the 2024-2025 school year. Along with the course requirements, this legislation also creates the Georgia Commission on Civics Education, which is responsible for reviewing the conditions, needs and issues related to civics education.

Strengths: Georgia’s mandate has specific stipulations for teacher training. Teachers will be required to meet one of three requirements to be eligible to teach the course:

  • A certificate in business, economics, math, family and consumer science or marketing
  • A special education certification with social studies content designation
  • A teaching endorsement in financial literacy developed by the Professional Standards Commission

Requiring an endorsement or certification ensures that teachers are properly trained and ready to teach these courses. School districts believe that existing trained teachers can fill these requirements, so there will not be significant costs in scaling up. Further, the Georgia Commission on Civics Education is responsible for reviewing the mandate. Clear ownership is beneficial for financial education mandates as it ensures accountability and allows a department to own the program and adapt it for the needs of students.

Possible challenges: The Georgia Commission on Civics Education can be a benefit but could also be a challenge due to it being a politically appointed board. Political leaderships changing their views on financial education could affect students.

Michigan

Michigan became the 14th state to pass a K-12 mandated course with HB 5190. The legislation states that this course will be a half-credit, which equals a semester. It can be taken at any point in high school and is a stand-alone course. The half-credit replaces a half-credit from math, arts or foreign language requirements. As with other subject matters, a report on effectiveness is required annually. This requirement goes into effect for students entering eighth grade in the 2022-2023 school year.

According to the analysis done by the Senate Fiscal Agency, this legislation will have a negative fiscal impact on the state and local governments. The Michigan Department of Education is required to develop the standards and content expectations for the course. Local districts will need to hire and train additional staff and pay for new materials. The analysis was not able to determine the exact additional costs. No additional funds are being provided by the state, creating an unfunded mandate.

Strengths: The state will be tracking effectiveness which is beneficial if changes are needed on the content, timing or anything else in the future.

Possible Challenges: This course can also be taken at any point in high school, which provides flexibility for students, but may not be as effective if skills cannot be readily applied in their financial lives.


Common Strengths

All three of these states have a mandated course, which ensures that all students, regardless of ZIP code or funding, will receive the course.

Common Challenges

For all three bills, no additional funding is being provided for implementing the mandates. This lack of state funding puts a burden on local school districts. They will need to pay for implementation costs or partner with private organizations to manage these expenses.


South Carolina

South Carolina’s legislature introduced legislation on personal finance mandates which did not pass, but did pass a provision in the state budget that will create a mandate. South Carolina introduced S. 16, which mandates a half-credit personal finance course that can be taken at any point in high school. The legislation directs South Carolina’s Department of Education to convene a task force to develop measuring and reporting requirements and examine the course’s effectiveness. The Department of Education will set standards for the course, but it will be the responsibility of the local districts to hire or train teachers and purchase curriculum materials. The requirements would go into effect for students entering ninth grade in the 2026-2027 school year. This legislation died on the last day of the legislative session, July 15

In the 2022-2023 state budget, there is a provision 1.101 that directs the Department of Education to create regulations to update the graduation requirements to include a personal finance course. The regulations must be submitted to the state Board of Education by Sept. 30.

Most legislative sessions run from early January to May or June. A few state legislatures meet year-round. Here is pending legislation that is in progress from states that have longer sessions.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania’s SB 1243 was introduced in June 2022 and referred to the Education Committee. It passed out of the Education Committee 7-4 and has been referred to the Appropriations Committee. This legislation creates a required personal finance course for graduation. The legislation does not have funding attached but does direct the commonwealth’s Department of Education to provide professional development for current and potential teachers, provide resource information on economics, economic education and personal finance, curriculum materials and other necessary resources to teach the course.

New Jersey

In New Jersey, A 4355 was introduced in June and referred to the Assembly Education Committee. This legislation directs every local board of education to include financial, economic, business and entrepreneurial literacy in the curriculum. This legislation does not specify the length of the course or whether it must be a stand-alone course or if it can be integrated into existing courses. This legislation does not have any funding appropriations and would require the local boards of education and local schools to take on the burdens of implementation. The New Jersey legislative session ends January 10th, 2023.

Going Forward

K-12 financial education has seen unprecedented momentum in 2022 and there is still potential legislation on the horizon. While we know that legislation is often just the entry point for financial education, followed by a long formalization process led by local districts and schools, state policymakers can do a lot to set up a mandate for success. We will continue to analyze legislation to elevate effective practices.

If interested in following along with legislative updates, you can check out Next Gen Personal Finance’s 2022 Financial Education Bill Tracker. For more detail on which states are already offering personal finance instruction, read the latest Survey of the States from the Council for Economic Education.

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Not all Mandates are Created Equal: a 2022 Legislative Recap

By Emma Donahue, Manager, Policy and Advocacy

Our policy and advocacy team’s analysis of financial education bills and provisions from the most recent legislative session.

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