When most people think of public education, they think of local school districts that receive oversight and resources from the state. However, over 66,000 children and teenagers receive education from the Department of Defense Education Authority (DoDEA), which provides K-12 education for the dependents of active-duty U.S. military personnel worldwide. This would be the equivalent of a major urban school district in the top 1 percent of school district size and slightly larger than Seminole County Public Schools, a district in the Orlando, Florida, area and the 13th largest in the state.
U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen (WA-02) and Trent Kelly (MS-01) have crafted a bill to increase financial literacy education for DoDEA students. Larsen is a Democrat, and Kelly is a Republican, giving the bill an immediate bipartisan boost. The Department of Defense Student Financial Literacy Act would require high school students in DoDEA schools to complete a financial literacy course before graduation. Larsen advocates for the bill by pointing to the growing number of states that require a similar standalone Personal Financial Literacy (PFL) course for high school graduation and a FINRA survey revealing better real-world financial outcomes for those with more financial literacy education.
DoDEA and Financial Literacy
Currently, DoDEA high schools require an Economic Literacy credit, for which several options exist. However, this credit is similar to the Economics credit required by most states, meaning no specific Personal Financial Literacy curriculum is required. Allowable courses for the credit include some with relatively little economic or financial literacy instruction, including Environmental Science and AP Comparative Government & Politics. Larsen and Kelly are correct in that a distinct PFL course requirement should exist. As an Economics teacher myself, I feel that the one-semester social studies elective credit should also be changed to an Economics credit to match the requirements of most states.
Fortunately, the help the DoDEA with financial literacy material, the federal government does have the Office of Financial Readiness (FINRED) that provides financial resources to U.S. military personnel, separated by service branch. Financial literacy training is provided to troops, including educational video clips and two simulation activities. Also provided are individual trainings that deal with major financial changes to a service member’s life, such as marriage or having a child.
FINRED provides training resources for military leaders who must guide their troops on financial literacy. Its Inventory of Financial Literacy Knowledge contains individual worksheets and lessons that are intended for service members and their spouses, but would also work for high school seniors. These individual lessons include learning objectives and are well-tailored to use in high school or community college education. Although some of the terminology is specific to U.S. military programs and services, they could easily be substituted for similar terms from civilian insurance or retirement program options.
The Beyond the Touchpoints curriculum goes beyond the basics and includes some of the more advanced elements one would find in a high school PFL class, including investing, cryptocurrency, and tax preparation. It includes information on setting objective and data-driven SMART goals, an important real-world tool. With FINRED, the DoDEA has ample resources to create mandatory Personal Financial Literacy courses for high school students!