Largest School District in Maryland On Path to Require Financial Literacy Class for High School Graduation

Some school districts add PFL requirement independently.


For those who are not regular observers of the political process, state laws can be tough to pass! This has certainly been true in the goal of getting all U.S. states to enact the “gold standard” of financial literacy education. According to Next Gen Personal Finance, the gold standard of financial literacy in high schools is a standalone Personal Financial Literacy (PFL) class – typically one semester in length – required for graduation. Currently, twenty states have passed legislation attaining this standard, with some having already implemented the requirement and others phasing it in over the next several years. Others are close, such as Texas’ requirement that all high schools offer PFL as an elective.

Although a mandatory PFL course for high schoolers typically has widespread bipartisan support, there are a few reasons why state legislators balk at passing bills requiring the class. First, they don’t like the idea of a mandated course, and some legislators want to simply take financial literacy learning standards and embed them in existing math, civics, government, or economics classes. Second, they reference a scarcity of resources, especially the nationwide teacher shortage. Critics of bills mandating a PFL graduation requirement for high school often refer to rural school districts that may have little or no “wiggle room” in their master schedules.

Fortunately, some school districts have taken it upon themselves to achieve the gold standard of financial literacy independent of state legislation! In Maryland, the state’s largest school district is pursuing this avenue. Many leaders of Montgomery County Public Schools hope to join Prince George’s County and Fairfax County Public Schools in requiring a one-semester PFL course for high school graduation, ideally beginning with the high school graduating class of 2028.

Individual School Districts Requiring PFL Class to Graduate

Prince George’s County, which ranks in the top twenty largest school districts in the country, is a Maryland county adjacent to Washington, D.C.  Its high school seniors, beginning with the class of 2024, will have to complete a one-semester PFL course. Fairfax County, Virginia, which hosts the largest school district in the state, also requires its seniors to complete a PFL course to graduate. In Vermont, the much smaller school district in Winooski requires its high school graduates to have also completed a PFL course.  

While individual school districts can choose to require students to complete a PFL course to graduate from high school, equity becomes an issue: the PFL requirement in states without a mandate is more often found in wealthier school districts. Fortunately, it is now easier to track which school districts require the “gold standard” of financial literacy:  Next Gen Personal Finance provides a nationwide map. Once a state is clicked on, a new map of that state opens in a new window with information provided by high school.

Thankfully, because large school districts may have several high schools, the state maps allow users to zoom in to find their local campus. If your high school is a gold dot, your student must complete a standalone PFL class before graduation! As a fellow high school teacher, my campus is listed as a “silver standard” school, meaning a PFL class is offered as an elective.

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: June 14, 2023