LOFTIS EDITORIAL: Finance instruction is much needed
Personal finance education has never been more relevant than it is today in the COVID-19 era. The virus has disrupted the finances of many hard-working citizens and left them wondering how to navigate their economic obligations. But even before the arrival of the pandemic, studies had already shown that a lack of financial literacy has a detrimental impact on Americans. Without important knowledge about real-world topics such as loans, credit, taxes, and retirement, Americans can experience anxiety about money and often end up with growing debt that is difficult to overcome. Many states have attempted to respond to the need by incorporating personal finance into their education standards. However, close examination reveals this approach may not be enough.
While 45 states have at least included personal finance in their K-12 standards, only 21 of those actually require students to take a finance course. Fifteen of the 21 – including South Carolina – simply integrate personal finance into another course, such as social studies or math. The unfortunate result? Only six states truly require a comprehensive personal finance class before graduation.
As South Carolina schools begin implementing new personal finance academic standards, we know that preparing our educators to share these critical skills with our current generation of students is vitally important. That’s why, having worked together for many years to support K-12 financial literacy efforts throughout South Carolina, we saw the opportunity for a meaningful collaboration between the State Treasurer’s Office and S.C. Economics.
In January 2020, the State Treasurer’s Office, through its Future Scholar College Savings Plan, and S.C. Economics – a statewide non-profit dedicated to providing training, tools and resources for K-12 teachers in economic education and financial literacy – launched a program to bring personal finance education into classrooms.
The South Carolina Financial Literacy Master Teacher Program is a bold, innovative initiative that aims to energize teachers about the importance of incorporating personal finance into their curriculum by providing not only financial incentives, but also tools and training since many do not feel equipped to teach these lessons. In fact, a study by the University of Wisconsin showed that more than 80 percent of teachers feel unprepared to teach personal finance. The S.C. Financial Literacy Master Teacher Program offers a unique solution that emphasizes educators’ personal professional growth while increasing their confidence to teach financial literacy content.
We are grateful to our teachers and the participating schools and districts that support them in their willingness to bring these vital lessons to the classroom. As South Carolina’s students head back to school this fall, we are excited to continue our efforts to bring them best-in-class financial education in hopes of improving their quality of life and their future financial health.