Creating a Brighter Future for the Nation’s Children
The Jump$tart National Educator’s Conference brought together K-12 personal finance public and private school teachers from 46 states in Washington, DC, this weekend. The annual event highlights tools, resources, information and support for teaching personal finance in the classroom and includes networking and peer-to-peer sessions, as well as workshops and roundtables on advocacy, curricula and personal development. As the AICPA’s representative on the Jump$tart Board of Directors, I was fortunate to attend this conference, share the AICPA’s financial literacy resources and learn more about the successes and challenges these educators face.
This is the third year the conference was held and, given the budget realities of many school districts and local and state governments, teacher registration was down from past years. Yet the commitment of these teachers—who teach a variety of subjects, from social studies and math to accounting and business—to helping their students understand their personal finances is inspiring and unwavering as they strive to find creative, engaging and, most importantly, free materials to use in their classrooms.
I spoke with a second-year Teach for America math teacher of 6-8 grade students in Southeast Washington, DC, whose students’ math skills are typically much lower than their grade level. To drive home the importance of smart money management, she began incorporating real world examples specific to the realities these children face, from having enough money to pay rent and buy food to understanding how bad credit can impact an individual’s ability to get a cell phone. Such examples prove to be an incredible “a-ha” moment for many of these children and, while she is challenged to create ways to couple grown-up concepts with her students elementary math abilities, she believes she is helping her students understand the value of good money habits.
Only four states—Colorado, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia—require at least a one-semester high school course devoted to personal finance for graduation, and just 20 states require personal finance instruction to be incorporated into other subject matter, typically at the high school level. In addition, many parents do not explain even the most basic financial concepts to their children because their own understanding of personal finance is low. For some teachers, who may want to teach more advanced concepts such as compound interest and the stock market, but who may not fully understand these concepts themselves, avoid teaching these subjects if not required to cover during the academic year. If family members and teachers don’t educate children about money management, where will tomorrow’s adults learn this?
The AICPA, the state CPA societies, CPAs and organizations like Jump$tart and its state coalitions work to provide financial education to parents and teachers, as well as students and many state and community organizations that advocate for legislation to require personal finance course(s) for graduation. Since the current economic downturn began, it’s often stated that a more financial literate population may have prevented the crisis, and this sentiment was shared often throughout the conference. Do you think personal finance classes should be a requirement for high school graduation? Will working today to ensure younger generations are financially literate help create a brighter economic future for the United States?
To help families get a handle on their finances and teach smart money habits to children, the AICPA plans to publish a collection of essays written by CPAs on real-world saving and spending stories and tales of both money struggles and triumphs. Learn more about this publication and how to submit an essay. Please consider being a part of this exciting endeavor.
Melora C. Heavey, AICPA Staff. Melora manages the CPA profession’s volunteer effort, 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy, and the award-winning public service campaign, Feed the Pig. She serves as the staff liaison to the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, the leadership body and primary spokespeople for 360 Degrees of Financial Literacy.