Washington, D.C. is unique in American governance – a federal city that largely operates as an independent state. This includes K-12 education policy, with D.C. Public Schools being a large school district educating some 50,000 students. Fortunately, it looks like our nation’s capital city may be following a similar path to the 23 states that have become “gold standard” educators in high school financial literacy. The city’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE) is seeking to update its policies about financial literacy education in high school. More financial literacy for students is the goal of state superintendent Dr. Christina Grant.
Between now and January, OSSE is holding a public comment period where stakeholders can voice their opinions on expanding financial literacy education, likely regarding whether DCPS should require high school students to complete a standalone Personal Financial Literacy (PFL) class to graduate. Those interested in informing OSSE about the merits of more rigorous financial literacy education, hopefully to the point of joining the “gold standard” states, can provide their opinion in an electronic form.
Public Comment Periods Can Make or Break Proposals
Laws often require that bureaucratic agencies hold an open period for public commentary about policy proposals. These can differ by state, and also exist for federal agencies. If a state or federal agency discovers that a significant number of stakeholders are against a proposal, especially if they can back up their opinions with evidence and research, it may withdraw the proposal. Public opinions regarding education policy have been relatively stable over time, which bodes well for most proposals – education policymakers likely know what will be supported and will tailor their reforms in those directions.
Given the strong level of public support for increased financial literacy education, it is almost guaranteed that most comments received by Washington, D.C. public schools will favor the implementation of standalone Personal Financial Literacy courses. Likely, many comments by well-informed stakeholders will reference the recent increase in the number of states currently requiring – or will soon require – standalone PFL courses for high school graduation. Policymakers can then use this strong majority of in-favor comments to placate the handful of critics who do not want the proposal to go through.
Remember, Bureaucrats Are Influenced by Public Opinion, Too!
Although bureaucrats (government employees who make rules) are not elected, they are influenced by public opinion, just like elected legislators and executives. And in many circumstances, it can be easier to accomplish a policy goal by lobbying (trying to persuade) bureaucrats than legislators. Even if a state has not passed a law to require all high school students to complete a PFL course prior to graduation, individual school districts may be persuaded to make such a requirement. And, when it comes to elective courses, it may be easy to convince a large high school to add a PFL class to its roster of many electives.
Hopefully, the public comment period ending in January 2024 results in Washington, D.C. joining the lineup of “gold standard” PFL states. If you live in D.C., please participate in the comment period!