Financial literacy requirements advanced

Lawmakers gave first-round approval April 28 to a bill intended to improve the personal finance skills of Nebraska students.

Sen. Terrell McKinney
Sen. Terrell McKinney

LB452, as introduced by Omaha Sen. Terrell McKinney, would require each school district to create a financial literacy program and incorporate it into its K-12 curriculum.

An Education Committee amendment replaced the bill. As amended, LB452 would add a half-credit high school personal financial literacy course as a graduation requirement, a provision originally introduced by Peru Sen. Julie Slama in LB327. It also would require financial literacy to be incorporated into each district’s curriculum in kindergarten through 8th grade.

The state Department of Education would recommend academic content standards for financial literacy, which the bill defines as knowledge and skills regarding budget and financial record keeping, taxes, debt, savings, risk management, insurance, investment strategies and establishing, building, maintaining and monitoring credit.

Each district would be required to adopt its own standards and develop a program based on those standards. By Dec. 1, 2022, districts would present evidence to the department that they are teaching students financial literacy.

Districts that do not provide a financial literacy program, require a half-credit high school financial literacy course or provide the required annual evidence to the department would lose their accreditation status.

Additionally, the department would collect data on the program, evaluate its effectiveness and report that information to the Legislature and the State Board of Education.

McKinney said young people often find themselves making “high stakes” financial decisions regarding personal and student loan debt without the proper knowledge of how those choices may impact them later in life.

“So many Nebraskans spend a lifetime learning about finances through trial and error — trying to build their boats as they sail them,” he said.

Gothenburg Sen. Matt Williams supported the bill. As a banker, he said that he has seen the consequences of financial illiteracy across all walks of life.

“Not providing a strong financial background to our young people is a significant penalty for them for the rest of their lives,” Williams said.

Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha said she supports financial literacy but couldn’t vote for the bill. While stopping short of actively opposing the measure, Hunt said the Legislature should not determine school curriculum no matter the subject. The state has educational experts to fulfill that duty, she said.

After voting 42-0 to adopt the committee amendment, senators advanced LB452 to select file 44-0.

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