UPDATED: North Dakota bill would teach personal finance in middle schoolNorth Dakota high schoolers have to be taught financial literacy. Now a Bismarck legislator wants the instruction to start earlier.
By: Teri Finneman, Forum Communications
BISMARCK — A bill that would require middle school students to learn about checkbooks and credit cards met opposition Tuesday from educators who say they’re already burdened with curriculum requirements.
House Bill 1412 would require students to learn about concepts of personal finance at least once during sixth, seventh or eighth grade.
Bill sponsor Rep. Dave Weiler, R-Bismarck, said the proposal is an extension of previous legislation to educate high school students about personal finance.
“We believe that it’s important that we get kids even at a younger age to start learning about the value of counting money and balancing checkbooks and how credit cards work,” he said.
State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt supported the bill, citing a national survey on teens and money that found 26 percent understood credit card interest and fees. One-third knew how to read a bank statement, balance a checkbook and pay bills.
Middle school students need personal finance information, Schmidt said.
“As they move through that first job, a lot of them don’t even know what’s on their pay stub or what it means,” she said.
But education representatives are concerned about adding more work for schools and teachers.
“This bill creates yet another course mandated by the Legislature when districts are already feeling that pressure of effectively meeting their curricular guidelines,” said Linda Paluck of the state Department of Public Instruction.
Warren Larson, a lobbyist for the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders, also opposed the bill.
“We’re adding and adding. If you’re going to add, I’m going to tell you, you’re going to have to put a fiscal note on this and you’re going to have to pay people for a longer day,” he said. “That’s the only way we’re going to be able to keep adding things to our school curriculum.”
Rep. Bob Hunskor, D-Newburg, said a few principals expressed concerns about smaller schools being able to find teachers who are highly qualified to teach personal finance.
Weiler said he doesn’t see that as a big problem.
“I don’t think you need to be a rocket scientist to be able to teach how to balance a checkbook or here’s the truth about credit cards,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to me like you need to have a special teacher that you would need to hire to come in and teach this.”
Rep. David Rust, R-Tioga, said it also doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that teachers can’t add something to their day without taking something else away. Teachers are already trying to do too much, he said.
Lawmakers discussed incorporating personal finance lessons into math or family and consumer science classes. Schmidt said there are a number of resources available to help teachers provide personal finance information.
The House Education Committee did not take immediate action on the bill.
Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.