When I think of the many goals of education, I include the confidence that comes when a student knows they can apply their knowledge to any situation and the value that comes from hard work. I am a big believer in knowing and doing. This applies to many areas, but few skills are more important than the ability to make decisions that are part of the demands of life, to succeed in becoming an adult, and to understand personal responsibility.
One of the priority elements of my overall vision for Idaho students is building skills for employment readiness and a focus on personal finance, also known as financial literacy. Our kids need to learn about taxes, health insurance, credit scores, interest, and loans, among other important financial skills. The time to learn about pensions should be before our students enter the workforce, not when they realize they need it years into their careers. These are different skills than those presented in an algebra or economics course, and they apply to every student, regardless of what they decide after graduation.
I believe we can respond to the comments that inevitably come when parents and employers note that high school graduates can “do the math,” but don’t know how to balance their checking account or count change. And, with the world of online banking upon us, understanding non-traditional ways of managing money is a must for the future.
There are forms of financial education in the state and many examples of high quality programs. Indeed, there are quality financial courses that are offered free of charge by major state partners. So what is the missing ingredient at the state level? I believe it is up to state leadership to provide a more uniform and consistent approach.
I believe we need a graduation requirement for financial literacy that requires a deliberate effort to embed skills and knowledge in courses for real-world applications. I have shared this all over 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 kick off good decision making after high school is to provide a good foundation during high school. I want to lead and champion the work to close the skills gap and shape our students’ vision for the 21st century.
Debbie Critchfield is a candidate for state superintendent of public instruction.