The Education Committee heard testimony Feb. 1 on two bills intended to improve Nebraska students’ personal finance skills.
Under LB327, introduced by Sen. Julie Slama of Peru, students must complete at least one half-credit hour of a personal finance or financial literacy course prior to graduation, beginning in school year 2022-23.
“Without a requirement that all students have a basic understanding of personal finance,” she said, “we’re risking the financial future of our youth.”
LB452, introduced by Omaha Sen. Terrell McKinney, would require each school district to create a financial literacy program and incorporate it into its K-12 curriculum.
“It is simply unfair and neglectful to expect 17- and 18-year-old high school graduates to thrive economically post graduation with no prior preparation,” McKinney said.
The proposed programs would be based on guidelines developed by the state Department of Education and would teach knowledge and skills related to budgeting, credit, checking and savings accounts, loans, stocks and insurance.
Richard Baier testified in support of both bills on behalf of the Nebraska Bankers Association. Although Nebraska’s social studies standards already include material on financial literacy and economics, he said, those subjects are a small portion of the curriculum and get “lost in the shuffle” in many school districts.
State Treasurer John Murante also testified in support of both bills, saying the inconsistent teaching of basic financial skills in Nebraska high schools means that some graduates lack basic financial knowledge.
“This is a subject matter … that every person who graduates will deal with every day of their lives,” he said, “and everyone needs to be on an equal playing field.”
Also in support of both proposals was Jennifer Davidson, president of the Nebraska Council on Economic Education. Research has shown that requiring students to complete a financial literacy course in high school results in improved credit scores, reduced delinquency and better student loan borrowing decisions, she said.
Nebraska schools are required to teach economics and personal finance, Davidson said, but the material can be included in other courses, and schools are not required to have a dedicated economics or personal finance course.