California combats financial illiteracy in schools

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announces $3.5 billion in grant funding for expanding financial literacy throughout education, a $1.4 million donation to train the educators

SACRAMENTO – With only half of the globe financially literate, state and private funding has been secured to give California’s high school students access to finance classes.

On Sept. 28, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced $3.6 billion in block grants that will expand access to financial literacy courses in high schools, and an additional $1.4 million donation that will fund teacher training. The $1.4 million was donated by nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF), who partnered with Thurmond and the California Department of Education to train teachers so they can efficiently provide more finance courses to their schools.

“Parents want this, students want this, teachers want this,” Thurmond said in a statement. “Now there’s $3.6 billion in state funding and $1.4 million in free access to professional development that school districts can use to ensure that all students graduate with basic financial literacy.”

The $3.6 billion in block grants is meant to fund elective courses for county offices of education, school districts, charter schools and special needs schools. It is a one-time grant that funds everything from art, to music, to finance education. It is a part of Proposition 98 signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in June, which is the most aid California schools have received in state history, reaching $110.334 billion for the 2022-23 school year. 

The additional $1.4 million was secured by Thurmond in August after partnering with NGPF, which is a California-based non-profit whose main goal is to expand access to financial literacy courses for K-12 students. Their funding will train teachers through workshops and help hire finance experts in certain school districts. This comes at a time when only 1.5% of California high school students were guaranteed to take a financial literacy course in 2022, while 19.2% had no access to finance courses at all. The rest had limited access to these courses, according to a study from NGPF

NGPF will train teachers through “professional development workshops.” These workshops are open to all California educators and will teach them how to facilitate finance classes for students. Teachers will also have the opportunity to receive compensation if they participate in the course. NGPF will be giving a $500 stipend to the first 1,000 public school teachers who complete 20 hours of the workshop. 

Since 2018, 15 states have started working with NGPF to help guarantee access to finance classes, and though California is not one of them, it is a goal of Thurmonds. Part of NGPF’s goals through this grant is to reach California’s five largest school districts: Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno, Long Beach and San Francisco. NGPF will offer a matching grant program so that these five districts can hire a personal finance specialist to aid in educating teachers and students. 

“Through engaging lessons, we can teach students how to manage their finances, avoid debt and how to make informed and wise choices that will benefit them throughout their lives,” Thurmond said.

Currently, only 15 states require high school students to take at least a semester of personal finance courses, but seven of these states are still in the beginning stages of implementing finance classes according to a study from NGPF

“Research shows that students who have access to high-quality financial education have better financial outcomes as adults, resulting in less debt, and a higher quality of life,” stated in the CDE press release.

Additionally, the global financial literacy rate is at 57%, according to a study from the Milken Institute. Understanding finances is particularly important for Americans, as people are solely responsible for ensuring financial security, according to Milken.

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