Second Time’s the Charm: Wisconsin Reintroduces Bill to Require High School Financial Literacy Class

New bill is more in line with other state’s requirements.


Many people have heard the age-old quote:  “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”  Fortunately, legislators in Wisconsin are taking another run at a bill to mandate a Personal Financial Literacy (PFL) class for high school graduation. According to Wisconsin Public Radio, the state Assembly is pursuing the requirement after a 2022 attempt failed due to the difficult implementation costs. One difficulty with the original bill was that it would have gone into effect immediately, with the 2022-23 school year. The new bill both reduces the length of the required PFL class from one year to one semester, which is in line with the other eighteen schools that mandated such a course for high school graduation and would not take effect until 2028.

Hopefully, the shortened length requirement and additional time to implement the PFL class will help it sail through the state legislature and receive a signature from the pro-education governor.  

Student Support for Financial Literacy in Wisconsin is Strong

The state Assembly heard three hours of public testimony in support of the new PFL bill, including from teenagers themselves. Many former students, who took the high school class as an elective, are grateful for it. Although the PFL course is not mandated as a high school graduation requirement, many high schools across the state, especially in urban areas like Madison and Milwaukee, require their students to take it. Much of the resistance to a mandated PFL course comes from the possibility that rural school districts might struggle to meet the requirement. Others question the cost of adding a required course because school funding is based on the number of students, not the number of courses taught.

In Milwaukee, the state’s largest city, selected high schools will begin requiring a one-semester Personal Financial Literacy class for the graduating class of 2026 and beyond. Similarly, in Madison, the state’s second-largest city, students must complete a course that “incorporates financial literacy or consumer education.”  At Robert M. La Follette High School in Madison, Personal Finance is a course coded as BUS 2050 and allows students to earn the W!SE Financial Literacy Certification.

Thus far, students who have taken the course are pleased with how applicable it is to their real lives.

State of Wisconsin Offers Financial Literacy Resources

The state’s Office of Financial Capability offers many resources to citizens to help them achieve their financial literacy goals. A webpage specifically for educators offers resources to help teach PFL classes, and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has an even more thorough listing of online resources for teachers. Thorough and detailed state standards for Personal Financial Literacy are also helpful for teachers in designing their own curriculum.  

With so many high-quality educational resources available, it is not a far stretch to mandate a one-semester class statewide that many schools in urban districts have already been requiring for years. Personal Financial Literacy could likely be taught by current teachers at rural high schools already teaching a math class, Economics class, or even a Government class. High school students in all states deserve to graduate knowing the basics of personal finance, and the societal benefits will far outweigh the initial costs of added instruction.

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: April 26, 2023