Maryland’s school system won’t require financial literacy classes

The school board has agreed to find other ways to make the subject of financial literacy available to students as an elective.

Montgomery County Public Schools will not require students to take a financial literacy course to graduate, but the school board has agreed to find other ways to make the subject available to students as an elective in Maryland County.

At its Tuesday meeting, the board also agreed to revisit the issue of making financial literacy a spring 2023 graduation requirement.

In laying out the school system’s plans, Maria Tarasuk of the Montgomery County Public Schools Curriculum Department said students who choose to take a financial literacy course could receive “degree recognition” and possibly hours of learning through student service.

She explained that schools can require credit and non-credit courses in various ways. Financial literacy could be incorporated into courses currently required for graduation or could be offered in non-credit formats.

Tarasuk also described a number of reasons why the school system felt that now was not the time to impose a new graduation requirement, including the following:

  • Concerns about the impact this would have on teaching assignments;
  • The need to monitor and document student progress to meet the additional graduation requirement;
  • Possible changes to how schools operate as a result of the implementation of school reforms in legislation known as “Maryland’s Blueprint for the Future.”

Prince George’s County Public Schools will implement a financial literacy graduation requirement next year, and Tarasuk suggested Montgomery County could “share lessons learned from our neighboring district” in the spring of 2024.

But Hana O’Looney, a student board member, pointed to another nearby school district, Frederick County, as she proposed passing the measure.

O’Looney explained that the Frederick County school system requires students to complete 25 credits, including financial literacy, while Montgomery County requires the completion of 22 credits. Still, schools in Frederick County have a higher graduation rate than MCPS, said O’Looney, who is graduating this year.

According to data from the Maryland State Department of Education, the graduation rate in Montgomery County is 91.3%. In Frederick County, which O’Looney says is “not as diverse,” the graduation rate is 93.7 percent.

“I think true financial education has the potential to break the cycle of poverty,” O’Looney told board members. “It would be a shame if the courses this council decided to be mandatory for life were Algebra I, Biology, English… instead of real life skills that can break the cycle of poverty.”

During the public testimony period of the school board meeting, several students told school board members that financial literacy should become a graduation requirement.

Nareen Othman, a ninth-grade student at Northwood Secondary School, told the council, “We cannot say, as a county, that graduates are ready for college and the job market when they don’t know not how to apply for financial assistance and how to handle a loan.

Board members Rebecca Smondrowski and Lynne Harris agreed with O’Looney, but were outvoted to seek a mandate on financial literacy. Instead, the board voted to find other ways to provide some of the content and revisit the topic next spring.

Superintendent Monifa McKnight said that by next spring, more information will be available on the impact of state-mandated school reforms on the operation of schools, and she said the feedback “has been really helpful. “.

Sarah J. Greer