Time for a Federal Mandate to Teach K-12 Financial Education
Dan Kadlec of Time magazine is good to call out Education Secretary Arne Duncan in his article last week, “Hey Secretary Duncan, It’s Time to Teach Kids about Financial Education (Not Just Talk About It).” Secretary Duncan gave a good speech last week to the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Education, created by Obama in January 2010. The Secretary used strong language promoting the need for financial education, but fell short by not calling for a federal mandate. It’s time that he make good on his words to promote greater teaching of financial literacy in K-12 education.
As Kadlec points out, the work of developing the curriculum today is being provided by not-for-profits, like the Council for Economic Education (CEE). These programs are largely funded by business as part of their corporate responsibility commitments.
Below is an excerpt of Secretary Duncan’s comments:
“As important as reading and math and social studies and science are, I think today more than ever financial literacy has to be part of that. To continue to have a population that is relatively illiterate in these matters, I think has real negative consequences to our democracy. … This is not a place where we just need to get a little better. We’ve got to get a lot better, and we’ve got to get better faster. … You have to start young. … There are some problems where I think we’re pretty close to solving them, we just need to tinker, and this is not one of those. We have to get so much better. … We have a state of crisis here. We have an emergency, and I feel this tremendous sense of urgency.”
Kadlec points out, “The committee’s recommendations will likely include an appeal for educators to engage with the stakeholders from the financial services industry to help devise finance planning curricula that address the core elements of personal finance.”
As the advisory committee works toward its final recommendations to the President and the Treasury and Education departments, it is important to recognize that the foundation for making this K-12 financial education broadly available is already well underway through the CEE and other organizations.
American’s have never had to assume so much personal responsibility for their own financial well-being as today — with businesses eliminating defined-benefit programs, social security a relic and the stock market uncertain. The need for action for the younger generation has never been greater. It’s a great gift that we can give them.
(Disclosure: As part of my deep interest to support economic empowerment, I serve on the board of the Council for Economic Education.)