Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine on the campaign trail in 2018. DeWine just signed mandatory personal finance education for high school students into state law.
Kirk Irwin | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed a bill requiring all high school students in the state to take a half-credit self-help personal finance course before graduating.
With the signing of the measure on Oct. 28 by its Republican governor, Ohio is now the 10th state in the United States that requires high school personal finance training. It is also the largest so far, with legislation covering more than 600 Buckeye State school districts.
“I was a banker for 41 years and found that we were not teaching our kids financial literacy,” said Ohio Senator Steve Wilson, Chairman of the Financial Institutions and Technology Committee of the Ohio Senate and main sponsor of the bill. “I wanted to do something about it.”
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Ohio Personal Finance Mandate
In the past two years, five states – Ohio, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nebraska, and Rhode Island – have passed legislation requiring students to take a one-semester personal finance education course. in high school, doubling the total number of states with such a mandate.
Such a course is considered the gold standard by Next Gen Personal Finance, a national financial literacy organization. The Ohio bill will come into effect in the 2024-25 school year and will cover topics related to personal finance, from basic budgeting to opening a bank account, to managing the student debt and more.
“Without this type of education, we are projecting children into a world to learn how to manage their money through school hard knocks,” said Brian Page, senior director of partnerships and advocacy at Next Gen Personal Finance, who was previously a teacher at Reading. High school in Reading, Ohio.
He added that high school students need personal finance training now, as many are already making decisions about money that will impact their future.
The Ohio bill also allows teachers who are not currently licensed to teach the class to receive special certification to teach a personal finance course. This will be paid for by the school district and reimbursed through a financial education fund, created by law with money from local businesses such as banks and credit unions.
The inclusion of the financial literacy fund in the bill ensures that the addition of these courses will not strain educator budgets, Wilson said.
What students say about the mandate
The students, who played a major role in convincing lawmakers to pass the bill, are happy to see that personal finance education will be available to all children in Ohio in the future.
“The best part of my class was the empowerment factor,” said Kristen Cain, now a sophomore at Ohio State University, who took a high school personal finance class with Page. She added that learning that she is able to invest, save and manage money well at a young age was just as important as the technical skills covered in the course.
Kylie Schmidt, a sophomore at the University of Cincinnati who also took classes with Page in high school, learned to save and invest for the future.
“There is a lot that this bill gives to children, and I think one important thing is safety,” she said.
Advice for other states
The push for more state personal finance education mandates continues across the country. This year alone, 26 states and Washington, DC, introduced high school personal finance education legislation, according to data from Next Gen Personal Finance.
For advocates in other states working on similar legislation, the Ohio group has some advice.
The first is to find a legislator to defend the bill, as Senator Wilson did in Ohio.
“It was because of his leadership that it was a pleasure to follow the process,” Page said of the Republican lawmaker.
Then they should be prepared to overcome any opposition that is sure to arise as they try to move the bill forward. This will require reworking parts of the legislation and thinking outside the box.
“They’ve had to go back to the drawing board and be ready to creatively solve problems time and time again,” said Yanely Espinal, director of education outreach at Next Gen Personal Finance.
Finally, people must be prepared to stay the course. The Ohio bill took about five years to pass.
“I was not going to give up,” said Senator Wilson. “It’s going to make such an incredible difference in the state of Ohio.”
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