Adjusting education policy is a complex and multi-faceted process. While a state law, crafted by the legislature and signed by the governor, is the most final and powerful form of education policy, states can differ on how that gets accomplished…and whether it even needs to happen. Some existing laws may allow state education agencies or boards of education to change education policy on their own, without the state legislature. Other states may prefer that policy recommendations go through specific boards or panels first before being voted on by the legislature. If you want to change your state’s education policy, it’s a good idea to research the process!
In the state of New York, a 64-member commission has been studying high school graduation requirements to decide on reforms. The state’s standardized Regents exams have been criticized as too high-stakes and not applicable enough to real-world expectations. As in other states with standardized end-of-course (EOC) exams for high school students, critics say these tests – which are typically only found in core academic subjects like Algebra, Biology, English, and U.S. History – are not preparing students for the modern economy. Toward that end, the Blue Ribbon Commission in New York wants to shift the high school curriculum focus toward more credits in financial literacy and civics.
Many Legislators Want the Okay from Experts
Legislators are likely to adopt the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission and give more weight to financial literacy courses as part of high school students’ graduation plans. Many lawmakers without strong political beliefs on a subject are likely to agree with expert consensus, which can help give a bill a “critical mass” of support. In terms of financial literacy education, expert recommendation will likely tip the balance in favor of passing bills to create the “gold standard” of a required one-semester Personal Financial Literacy (PFL) class for high school graduation. Few legislators are likely against increasing financial literacy education, but may be waiting for some expert backing before casting a vote in favor, especially if implementation will cost money.
State legislators in New York can now point to the work of the Blue Ribbon Commission when defending their decision to vote for a bill requiring a one-semester PFL course for high school graduation. It is certainly a vote they should have made anyway, but it is understandable that they would want some expert evidence to back up their decision. Voters are likely to be more accepting of the vote of their state representative or state senator if it is done on the basis of expert testimony.
Some States Give Curriculum Control to Bureaucratic Agencies
The New York State Department of Education has lots of control over K-12 public school curriculum. States differ on where graduation requirements, such as the completion of a standalone Personal Financial Literacy (PFL) class, are determined. Resources like the Education Commission of the States, which includes a page specifically on financial literacy requirements, can help parents, nonprofits, and interest groups determine their best contact for pursuing improved financial literacy education. A K-12 Governance comparison page lets viewers see if all power over K-12 policy rests with the legislature or is given to a bureaucratic agency, such as a state department of education.