Washington State Rep Files Bill to Make State 25th to Require Financial Literacy Education in High School

The 2024 legislative season could see PFL "critical mass."


As we approach the 2024 legislative season in most states, it appears that another bill to boost financial literacy education in public high schools has been filed in Washington state. The bill, filed by Skyler Rude (R-Walla Walla), would require Washington high school students to complete the equivalent of one semester of financial literacy education to graduate. The requirement would first apply to the Class of 2029, and school districts would also be required to provide some financial literacy education for both elementary and middle school students.  

Although not a “gold standard” bill, as students could earn the one semester of financial literacy education through embedded standards in existing courses, Rude’s bill is certainly a step in the right direction. As in other states that have desired an increase in financial literacy education but balked at requiring a standalone class, the key issues are flexibility and resources. Embedding new financial literacy standards in existing math and social studies classes have been common solutions, though these may result in content and instruction that lack rigor. Nevertheless, any step in the right direction is genuine progress and must be applauded!   

Almost Half the States Require a High School PFL Credit

There is also the possibility that Rude’s PFL bill will be amended to a true “gold standard” bill once the Washington state legislature convenes again on January 8, 2024. By then, Washington legislators will see that 24 of the 50 U.S. states have passed legislation to become gold standard PFL educators. If a bill improving financial literacy education is going to be passed, why not make it one that adds Washington to the list of gold standard states? There may be pressure to “upgrade” Rude’s bill on the grounds that passing a less ambitious bill will create a “waiting period” before a similar bill is considered again, by which point a significant majority of U.S. states will be gold standard states…and Washington will be in the minority!

Fortunately, Washington already has plenty of high-quality free financial literacy material, including through the office of the State Treasurer and the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions. Specific resources have already been compiled on the latter’s website for high school teachers! Academically, the University of Washington also has resources for college students that could be used to prepare high school seniors. While adding a class to the high school core curriculum may not be easy, it’s no longer acceptable for states to argue that they cannot find quality educational content in the field of personal financial literacy!

Washington Could Join Oregon on “Gold Standard” PFL Team

To the immediate south, Oregon is a gold standard PFL state, having passed a law in July 2023 to require a standalone Personal Financial Literacy class for high school graduation. Further south, in California, a ballot initiative has put the same proposal to voters on the 2024 ballot. The ballot initiative in California has support from financial literacy nonprofits and state leaders, and would help achieve “critical mass” for standalone PFL classes nationwide due to California’s record population. Would Washington want to be the only west coast state that does not require a standalone PFL course for its high school students? 

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: December 15, 2023