Back in July, we were pleased to see that South Carolina had just added a personal financial literacy class requirement for high school graduation. A small, but growing minority of states require high school students to pass a standalone personal financial literacy class in high school. The course is just a semester, but it will have a tremendous impact in preparing these teenagers for the real world! Fortunately, more states are seeing the benefit of financial literacy education, and Pennsylvania is poised to be the next state to require such a course for high school graduation. Senate Bill 1243 has passed the Pennsylvania Senate and is headed to the House, where approval will send it to a pro-financial literacy education governor, Tom Wolf.
Pennsylvania on the Right Path to Financial Education
Fortunately, the Pennsylvania Department of Education already has resources ready to go for secondary classes in personal finance. The American Public Education Foundation rates the state a “C” on its report card for financial literacy education. Adding the required personal financial literacy class for high school graduation would drive it up to an “A” and is something every state should strive for! Fortunately, nonprofits in the state, like the Pennsylvania Council on Financial Literacy, seem poised to help provide the resources to help with any new personal finance class. The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency (PHFA) did research starting in 2010 to build up a framework for financial education in the state, with a recommendation that all high school students take a standalone personal financial literacy course.
Political Situation is Poised for Success
The state House of Representatives has already seen a similar bill requiring a standalone personal financial literacy course: House Bill 242. In a guest editorial on PennLive, Gene Natali explains the importance of passing HB 242 (or SB 1243) into law: too many Pennsylvanians need help with financial literacy, and the vast majority of its high school graduates have never taken a course in the subject. The author of SB 1243, state senator Chris Gebhard, argues that the time is ripe to require personal financial literacy, with Americans amassing over $1 trillion in credit card debt. The legislation is also bipartisan, with HB 242 primary sponsor Michael J. Driscoll being a Democrat while SB 1243 author Chris Gebhard is a Republican.
If either bill makes it to the desk of Governor Tom Wolf, it should find a quick signature: the governor is a strong proponent of financial education and education in general. But Wolf is term-limited and not running for re-election in a few weeks, so proponents of financial education should seek to get the bill on his desk before January! His potential replacements, Democrat Josh Shapiro or Republican Doug Mastriano, differ considerably on education policy, which could factor into whether the state legislature sends a passed HB 242 or SB 1243 to the governor’s desk in 2023. Hopefully, either man would sign such a bill and take a much-needed step to improve financial literacy in Pennsylvania. Adding one more [populous] state to the list of states requiring personal financial literacy for high school graduates will add to the “snowball effect” that will convince more states to do the same.