Proposal for MCPS Financial Literacy Course Requirement Is Insufficient

The Montgomery County School Board decided on Tuesday that “now is not the time” to start requiring students to take a financial literacy course before graduation, but members did not completely rule out the ‘idea.

In a 5-3 vote, the board rejected student member Hana O’Looney’s proposal to require all high school students to take a half-credit financial literacy course. Instead, the board approved a plan that calls for expanded access to electives on the subject. As part of its vote on Tuesday, the school board said it would revisit the idea, as well as the effectiveness of efforts to expand access to electives, in the spring of 2023.

In explaining the decision not to make the course mandatory, Montgomery County Public Schools staff and school board members said they wanted more time to see how other school districts that have recently adopted a similar requirement are doing well. Additionally, the program changes expected as part of the implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future — a long-term, legally mandated plan to improve education statewide — are unclear, including their potential impact on graduation requirements.

“I wanted to make it a requirement…but I hear you loud and clear about what’s coming in the Master Plan,” board member Karla Silvestre told MCPS staff members.

A last-minute proposal by O’Looney and member Lynne Harris to create a financial literacy requirement that isn’t tied to course credit seemed to pique the interest of other members, but didn’t pass. .

The proposal, which board member Scott Joftus called attractive but “half-baked,” would allow students to meet the requirement by taking either a credited elective or a non-credited course.

O’Looney, a graduate of Richard Montgomery High School on Thursday, said simply expanding the availability of personal finance classes “doesn’t go far enough.” The skills students would learn — like filing taxes, applying for student financial aid, understanding credit scores — are too critical, she said.

“I don’t want any more situations where we have graduates who…have trusted the education of MCPS to serve as a foundation for the rest of their lives and find out that wasn’t the case and they’re not. not able to manage their finances and find themselves continually locked in what can be a cycle of poverty,” she said.

As part of the financial literacy expansion approved by the school board on Tuesday, each of MCPS’s 25 high schools will by 2025 be required to offer a “menu” of courses that provide financial literacy content, including credit options. (an elective course, an online course, and a quantitative literacy math course) and a non-credit course (an online module with built-in assessment).

Students who choose to take one of these options would be recognized for doing so at their high school graduation ceremonies, either with a special rope or with a pin to wear, staff said.

MCPS employees presented data indicating that of the parents surveyed, approximately 65% ​​wanted the course to be mandatory. About 36% of students surveyed felt the same way, according to the data.

Other concerns about the course requirement include its impact on students’ ability to take other courses of interest to them, the staffing implications, and how it might strain the schedules of some students who have struggling to stay on track for graduation. These students are typically non-native English speakers, students living in poverty, and students in special education programs.

However, some school board members argued that it is the students who, in general, need the most to take the course.

“It will be a gift for our most at-risk students … who will have tools for life that they received from us that they may not have obtained by taking (other courses),” said said Harris. “It’s something that really adds value.”

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at [email protected]