This week, SB 342 was up for a vote in the Senate’s Education Committee. The bill would offer a simple language change to existing law, making it mandatory for California’s Instructional Quality Commission to include financial literacy education in K-12 curriculum.
In a disappointing turn of events, committee members voted against or abstained from advancing the bill.
Currently, the Instructional Quality Commission has been encouraged to include financial literacy in its history and social science curriculum. SB 342 would require the inclusion of financial literacy education periodically throughout K-12 schooling, preparing students for real-life scenarios and best practices.
Teachers would be able to include age-appropriate information based on their students’ grade levels and proficiency, and could address various topics, including personal banking, budgeting, taxes, and planning for college expenses. Since SB 342 would not add an additional class, and would be integrated into the already-scheduled 2024 curriculum revision, it would not impose financial burdens on California’s schools.
Personally, I benefitted from being raised by a teacher who knew the value of instilling financial literacy skills in his kids. We struggled financially, but my father managed to keep our home, keep us clothed and keep us fed, even after having our household income slashed in half after our mother’s death. This taught me valuable lessons that I took into adulthood. Unfortunately, with today’s volatile economy and lack of financial literacy education, young adults have worse outcomes, more debt, and fewer assets than ever before, and the problem is even more prevalent in black and brown communities.
That is why financial literacy education has never been more important for California students. Research has shown that students who have access to high-quality financial education have better economic outcomes as adults, resulting in less debt and a higher quality of life. This applies to students who choose a higher education path or a technical career education path. Right now, it is especially critical to prioritize financial literacy as rising inflation begins forcing California families to face tough economic choices.
There is already a push for this type of education nationwide, with 70% of high school students in the U.S. being able to access a personal finance elective or guaranteed course. California cannot afford to fall behind by procrastinating adding this type of education across grade levels. Currently, only 1 in 4 students participate in personal finance courses where offered.
As far as the education of our children is concerned, there is no logical reason to block this bill from advancing and becoming law. Unfortunately, even at the committee level, this common-sense legislation failed.
I requested and was granted reconsideration of the bill, to be able to take it back up in committee. We will fight to get another hearing and get our students the education they so desperately need.