California State Superintendent Visits High School Personal Finance Class, Supports Bill to Mandate Course

Exemplary teaching models can make adoption of new courses easier.


In education, teachers are encouraged to include exemplars of top-quality work when giving an assignment or project. Many students may struggle and give up if they have little or no idea what the completed deliverable should look like. Fortunately, lawmakers in California are likely to be more motivated and focused when pushing through a bill to require a one-semester Personal Financial Literacy (PFL) course for high school graduation: Berkeley High teacher Crystal Rigley has demonstrated her elective personal finance class for State Superintendent Tony Thurmond. Rigley also states that she would love to train other teachers to teach the course.

AB 984, currently in the California State Assembly after being proposed by member Kevin McCarty, would make a PFL class a high school graduation requirement beginning in 2028-29. To ensure the success of the bill, exemplary PFL teachers like Crystal Rigley should be used as models, and their curriculum and classroom practices should be shown to lawmakers.  

Expanding the Number of PFL Teachers Can Erode Barriers

As more states move toward requiring standalone PFL classes, it is important to highlight those who are excellent teachers of this relatively new subject. One barrier to expanding coverage of this content is the [misguided] belief that it is too difficult to find, train, and equip teachers to teach the subject. But the expansion of PFL classes will create a natural snowball effect that familiarizes more teachers and schools with the subject, weakening resistance to adopting it. While high-quality free curriculum has been available for a while, actual teaching tips and tricks may be needed to convince many educators to jump on board.

Hopefully, PFL teachers who have achieved success and recognition will become active on social media and discuss their most innovative lessons and practices to help engage new teachers of the subject. This can even include teachers in similar subjects, such as Economics, who have helped lead students to victory in finance-related contests. As any teacher knows, there is often plenty of space outside the formal curriculum that needs to be utilized to engage students, meaning that Economics, Government, History, and Math teachers can contribute many exercises and practice materials.

Elective PFL Teachers Can Help States Go All the Way

Some states, such as Texas, require schools to offer PFL as an elective. As these courses grow in popularity, some school districts are even expanding the elective to additional semesters. Within a few years, the expansion of PFL elective classes should provide a “critical mass” of support to help lawmakers push through a standalone PFL graduation requirement. Currently, almost half of all high school students attend these “silver standard” schools, where PFL is an elective but not a requirement – it’s important for reformers to be diligent in highlighting the successes of these elective courses and push for their advancement into required courses.

As more teachers become familiar with the subject and promote their successes, lawmakers can use the publicity to better promote bills that would turn Personal Financial Literacy into a requirement instead of just an option.

About the Author

Owen Rust

Owen Rust teaches AP Economics and AP Government in Texas, and has also taught Personal Financial Literacy, which Texas high schools must now offer! He has a Master's degree in Finance and Economics from West Texas A&M University and is passionate about young people learning how to take charge of their financial and investing goals. Outside of teaching, Owen is also a writer who writes about politics, government, education, economics, and finance and investing.

Last updated on: April 18, 2023