When I think about the many purposes of education, I include the confidence that comes when a student knows that they can apply their knowledge to any situation and the value that comes from work. I am a big proponent of knowing and doing. This takes in many areas, but few skills are more important than the ability to make decisions that are a part of the demands of life, successful adulting and understanding personal responsibility.
One of the priority pieces of my overall vision for Idaho students rests on skills development for job readiness and a focus on personal finance, also known as financial literacy. Our kids need to be taught how taxes, health insurance, credit scores, interest, and loans work, among other important financial skills. The time to learn about retirement plans should be before our students enter the workforce, not when they realize they need one several years into their careers. These are different skills than what is presented in an algebra or economics class and they apply to each and every student, regardless of their decisions after graduation.
I believe we can address the comments that inevitably come when parents and employers note that high school graduates can “do calculus”, but don’t know how to balance their checking account or count back change. And, with the online banking world upon us, understanding non-traditional ways of managing money is indispensable for the future.
There are forms of financial education taking place around the state and there are many examples of high-quality programs. In fact, there are quality financial curriculums that are offered for free by great state partners. So what’s the missing ingredient at the state level? I believe it’s state leadership to supply a more uniform and consistent approach.
I believe we need a graduation requirement for financial literacy that takes in a deliberate effort to integrate skills and knowledge into coursework for real world applications. I have been sharing this everywhere in the state and the agreement has been overwhelming. Education is not an outcome.
Education is the mechanism by which we teach and prepare our students to thrive in their lives and contribute to the communities around them. A great way to kickstart good decision making after high school is to provide good foundations during high school. I want to lead and champion the work to close the skills gap and set the vision for our students for the 21st century.