Home Local Maryland Government Announcement Originally published February 16, 2011

Comptroller Joins Students, Teachers, Industry Leaders in Push for Financial Literacy Requirement

-Unprecedented Coalition Gathers to Support Legislation –

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (February 16, 2011) – Comptroller Peter Franchot joined an unparalleled coalition of supporters today calling for passage of legislation mandating a financial literacy graduation requirement for all Maryland students. Students, educators, consumer advocates and business leaders rallied for better financial education.

“The time is now for Maryland to require all students take a standalone course in financial literacy in order to graduate from high school,” Comptroller Franchot said. “I believe that fewer people would be drowning in debt today and facing the loss of their homes, their credit ratings and their financial security if they had been armed with a financial education. We don’t have time to wait,” he added.

Senate Bill 262, sponsored by Senator Katherine Klausmeier and 14 other senators requires all Maryland high school students to complete a course in financial literacy in order to graduate. The cross-filed House Bill 127, sponsored by Delegate Jay Walker and 36 other delegates from both sides of the aisle is scheduled to be heard in the House of Delegates on Thursday, February 17.

“I strongly believe that being financially literate before leaving high school and venturing out into the world is as important a set of skills as one can have,” said Senator Klausmeier, “I also believe that the way to make sure our young people have these skills is through a focused, semester-long course in the skills of managing personal finances as my legislation would require,” she added.

“Financial literacy is a necessity for all Marylanders. It goes across color barriers. It goes across economic barriers. I’m glad we are taking the first step to ensure that all young people in our state have the financial tools they need to succeed,” said Delegate Jay Walker.

At today’s rally, students joined teachers, business leaders, consumer advocates and elected officials in calling for the mandate. Comptroller Franchot met many of today’s participants as part of his statewide tour of schools with financial education programs and through his coalition of supporters. Currently, Talbot, Carroll and Allegany counties have a financial education requirement.

“Students are required to learn basic math calculations yet we don’t require that they learn the importance of credit scores or saving,” said Kevin Murley, a teacher at Montgomery Blair High School. “The result is that most Americans learn these topics on the fly or fall prey to a financial system for which they are unprepared to enter. The misconceptions high school kids have about finance are too many to fathom.”

In testimony released to the Senate today, banking and financial industry leaders recognized the importance of a financial education in protecting young people’s futures as well.

“As a financial advisor, I have had the opportunity to witness first-hand the damage that can be done to Maryland households based on a fundamental lack of financial literacy. The growing household debt and catastrophic decision-making in the mortgage and investment arenas have crippled many Maryland families in recent years,” said Eric D. Brotman, CFP.

“Money management is a learned skill like reading or riding a bike. We don’t just wake up one morning understanding APR, credit scores and 529 plans. We must teach our young people money basics, or they are likely to live beyond their means, overwhelmed by debt. The low credit scores that result can affect their ability to buy a car, rent an apartment or event get a job,” said Andrew Bertamini, Maryland regional president for Wells Fargo/Wachovia.

Consumer advocates weighed in on the importance of financial education for Maryland’s future workers.

“Dedicated financial curriculum is integral to students, starting at a young age and continuing through high school, to help them to build the necessary skills and capabilities to compete in the global job market. Financial capability is a process over the course of a lifetime. Today’s students are tomorrow’s workers. We need to ensure that all Maryland students are prepared to be successful workers in the future” said Robin McKinney, executive director for the Maryland CASH Campaign.

Some opponents of a course requirement argue that financial information will be incorporated into other existing classes as part of new state standards. Many education advocates argue that mandating a standalone course for all students is the only way to ensure that students who really need the information get it.

“The Maryland State Department of Education efforts in financial literacy are a start. The plan does not go far enough. We need to guarantee financial literacy education to all students at an in-depth level,” said Madeleine Greene, former educator and financial counselor.