About a dozen speakers at Tuesday’s Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) meeting urged the school district to adopt a financial literacy graduation requirement so students will be able to buy a home and car, fill out financial forms, pay taxes and learn how to save and plan for the future.
Earlier this month, members of the BOE directed Interim Superintendent Monifa McKnight to explore the possibility of offering a .5 credit financial literacy course that would be a requirement for all students in ninth grade, beginning with the 2023-2024 school year. McKnight was asked to report back by January 2022.
Katie Yuan, founder of InnovateX, a student-led nonprofit spearheading advocacy for personal finance reform, told BOE members that too many young adults rely on their parents or learn as they go. “Not every student has the luxury of having mentors to teach them or the time to teach themselves while balancing school and job responsibilities,” she said.
Angelina Xu, a sophomore at Richard Montgomery High School, noted, “Our math classes don’t tell us how to build our credit scores. Our English teachers are too busy going over thesis statements to teach us how to apply for financial aid. Yet our Working Group’s countywide survey found that only 742 students took a personal finance course in one semester. This is out of nearly 45 thousand high school students.”
Several of the student speakers are from another country or their parents are from another country. They expressed problems and fear about filling out financial forms that could help them receive aid for a college education.
Student Hanna Frank noted, “Everyone spends money and needs to understand how to manage their income. High school is supposed to prepare us for life, and in a county with such excellent education, I believe it is a fundamental oversight to not have a required financial literacy course.”
Matthew Casertano, who said he represented members of the Blair Financial Literacy Club, also urged the BOE to require a financial literacy course.
Student Member of the Board Hana O’Looney praised all the students, who represent eight high schools, for speaking out.
Also, during the public comment session of the BOE meeting, a few parents criticized the school district for not implementing COVID-19 tests to stay, so that fewer students would need to quarantine. They questioned why it was taking the district so long to begin a program it supports.
McKnight explained that the program needs support and assistance from other partners, including the county. “That is no easy task,” she said. The school district cannot begin test to stay by itself, she said. “We quite frankly are not staffed and cannot do it.”