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MassSaves Testifies in Support of Quality Financial Education in Schools at State House

On Tuesday, June 13 the Joint Committee on Education heard testimony on 10 bills filed for the 2017-18 legislative session that seek to implement financial literacy curriculum in Massachusetts public schools. The Committee also heard testimony on 16 bills advocating the re-institution of civics education. It is encouraging that over 50 legislators from both parties and diverse political perspectives have filed or co-sponsored these bills. In many cases progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans have co-sponsored the same bill.  

Scott Guild, president, Massachusetts Council on Economic Education and David Floreen, retired banker and both members of the MassSaves Steering Committee, testified in general support for all 10 bills that seek to establish a financial literacy or personal finance curriculum in Massachusetts public schools. However, they focused their endorsement on three nearly identical bills, S 247, S 249 and H 261 because of their broad application across various disciplines and recognition that financial education content and concepts can (and perhaps should) be incorporated into many subject areas. H 2023 is an earlier version of three above bills but only references inclusion of financial education into the math curriculum while the other bills expand it to include social studies, business, health and other subject areas.  The Massachusetts Bankers Association and The Midas Collaborative also submitted comprehensive written testimony in support of these bills.

Scott and Dave highlighted numerous facts regarding the general lack of financial awareness among the adult population locally and nationwide, that 47 percent of Americans are unprepared to pay for a $400 emergency and that numerous studies demonstrate that many Americans continue to lack even a basic understanding of basic economic and financial concepts and how that directly impacts their lives.  Scott highlighted the results of the Council of Economic Education’s 2016 Survey of the States and the Champlain College study which further amplify the need implement some form of statewide financial education curriculum in Massachusetts. 

As the former lobbyist for the Massachusetts Bankers Association and advocate for financial literacy, Dave explained that while Massachusetts schools and students rank number 1 in so many areas, it earns an F in financial education, primarily because it is such a random, hit or miss proposition based on the interests, resources of particular school district leadership, individual schools and even individual teachers within a school. He acknowledged and addressed the assertions by some that there is no room in the current class schedules, no money to hire more teachers or class materials, and a lack of qualified teachers. 

In particular Dave and Scott asserted the claim that inserting financial education into the K-12 curriculum was a new state mandate that unless funding is provided it cannot be adopted is a lame excuse.  There are many ways to incorporate financial education concepts into existing courses with no additional expense or hiring of additional teachers.  For example, some teachers include basic budgeting and money management issues into their health class curriculum since financial challenges are often the number one cause of stress and various health issues.  Similarly, incorporating a discussion of financial education into business education classes and social studies curriculum on the effects of the Depression or the more recent Great Recession is a great way to make issues real for students. 

Dave relayed his recent experience in Andover where he helped introduce the first Credit for Life Fair at Andover High School and one that is repeated across the Commonwealth. The outpouring of support from teachers, local banks and businesses, volunteers, parents and most importantly the students was overwhelming! Almost everyone said, “Why don’t we have financial education throughout our schools? … This is tremendous, what do we have to do to make this happen in all schools?”

Our closing argument was simple and basic: This is the time to act.  The Education Committee has endorsed similar bills in the past and there is broad bi-partisan support from all political perspectives.  This is a wonderful opportunity for the legislature to pass a bill that all can support and their constituents (and media) will praise you for doing something that just makes sense!

Sen. Vincent DeMacedo (R-Plymouth) and a longtime supporter of financial education bills also testified in support.  His message was also simple; we are all coming together on this, it’s so important to prepare our students for the reality of life.  He urged the committee to pass a comprehensive bill this session.  

Next Steps, What Can I do?

The most important action supporters of financial education can take right now is to email or write their local legislator and the chairs of the Education Committee and ask them to support S 249 and H 261. These are the bills endorsed by MassSaves as they are the most comprehensive and reflect the ability to incorporate financial education in multiple academic disciplines and are nearly identical to the bill endorsed by the Education Committee in 2016. Please feel free to use some of the points noted above. Even more important is to share any personal/local examples of why these bills make sense and how they will benefit the students/families in their district. For a link to the text of the financial education bills click here and to contact members of the Education Committee, click here.

We are planning a “Day on the Hill” in October to help generate awareness of and support for these bills. We hope you will join us.  In the meantime, contact Marlishia Aho for more information on advocating for access to quality financial education.