Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill today that requires public high school students to pass an economics and personal finance class as a graduation requirement. The bill passed both Houses at the end of last month, amid concerns from many teachers that the course could result in less instruction on U.S. history.
Students are currently required to take four social studies classes—civics and economics, world history, and American History 1 and 2. The finance course would be included as one of the four social studies course requirements, with it and a restructured civics course being mandatory. Because the change does not mandate students take five social studies classes, teachers have argued that they would have to condense American History 1 and 2 into one course, to make room for the finance class
Charles Jeter, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools government relations and policy administrator, says the concerns raised are legitimate.
“I think everyone agrees that personal finance is important but so is a complete and good understanding of U.S. American and world history,” Jeter said. “And to do one to the detriment of the other, is that the right pathway? That’s one of our concerns. We have not taken an official position but we are very cautious and concerned about these ongoing mandates of classes without a reduction in other requirements.”
Some teachers say their students already learn about personal finance in their current civics and economics courses and that superintendents and state boards of education should make decisions on required courses for students and not legislators. Jeter says it should be done looking at courses in total and not piecemeal, his description of the personal finance graduation requirement.
General Assembly members who support the bill say the course is needed because many reports show the growing debt students often accumulate after they graduate from high school and college. The finance course would include instruction on credit scores, automobile and home loans, paying for college, choosing and managing a credit card and other financial literacy issues.
Teachers are encouraged to complete a professional development course in economics and personal finance provided by the North Carolina Council on Economic Education but will be allowed to teach the class in public high schools prior to taking the course.
The new graduation requirement takes effect in the 2020/2021 school year.