COLUMBUS, Ohio — Teaching personal finance at Reading High School near Cincinnati, I saw the life-changing lessons that students applied, filing tax returns in class, opening bank accounts, starting Custodial (Kiddie) IRAs, and pulling credit reports. It affected each student in real ways.
That’s why I support Ohio Senate Bill 1, which will guarantee that every public high school student in Ohio will have to pass a semester personal finance class to graduate. State Sen. Steve Wilson, a suburban Cincinnati Republican, is champion of this commonsense legislation, with support from many in the business community and in education.
Testifying earlier this year on behalf of the bill, which is now under consideration in the House, former Reading High School (RHS) valedictorian Nate Grant said, “Senate Bill 1 has the opportunity to empower each student to control their own financial destiny instead of letting it control them.”
Donald Furniss (RHS ‘20) testified, “Our class was very diverse with top students graduating with high honors, average students, and students who might not graduate. But unlike your typical math, science, or English course, all students were eager to learn. Personal finance was the most important and necessary class in high school because it applied to every single student.”
This was echoed in the testimony of Noah Sofio (RHS ‘17), my former student who recently graduated from Dartmouth College: “I have found financial literacy to be the most practical class I have taken in high school — and college. In an ever-evolving world, high schoolers can ill afford to wait and ‘figure out’ significant financial or life decisions until after graduation, especially when so many of the windows to make these decisions close by the time a student graduates high school.”
The class helped Kristen Cain, RHS ‘20 salutatorian, select a college major and career path. Others learned about well-paying trades.
This is likely why students such as Kylie Schmidt (RHS ‘20) shared in her testimony that “high school offers us an education in English, math, science, and history, and while all vital, none are used as often as personal finance.”
Financial issues have become increasingly complex, with digital spending and saving options at the fingertips of any teen with a phone. So has the need for our education system to shape lessons on how to be financially capable, acting free of impulse.
“It is the changed mindset that produces intentional financial choices and simply causes a once-incurious and naive student to ask questions,” testified Anna Sofio, RHS ‘19 grad.
Not all students have parents or schools guiding them toward financial capability. As RHS ‘18 grad Caleigh Jacobs stated in her testimony, “Since my high school personal finance education, my knowledge has been applied, deepened, and shared with peers. Without these lessons, students are intentionally disenfranchised.”
Emily Brandt, RHS ‘20, testified that, “without the knowledge I obtained from my personal finance class, I can truly say that I would be in one of two situations right now. I’d be always worrying about the amount of debt I’m putting myself in, or I wouldn’t have made it to college.”
My students were fortunate. Given our world today, every student should be financially literate. Please contact your local representative in support of Ohio Senate Bill 1. There are thousands of Ohio kids counting on us to ensure that they obtain the knowledge and skills they need to control their financial destiny, instead of letting it control them.
Brian Page is a former Reading High School personal finance teacher and the Ohio Department of Education 2011 Milken National Educator Recipient. He now supports personal finance education nationally at the Next Gen Personal Finance Mission 2030 Fund.
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