PROVIDENCE – District 8 state Sen. Sandra C. Cano joined General Treasurer Seth Magaziner and District 19 state Rep. Joseph McNamara on Thursday to introduce legislation that seeks to expand personal finance education in the state’s public high schools.

The legislation introduced on Thursday by Magaziner, Cano, and McNamara – the Chairman of the Health, Education and Welfare Committee – would require all public high schools to offer a class that includes personal finance beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, and would require students to demonstrate proficiency in personal finance by the 2021-2022 school year.

“Thirty-six states guarantee students access to personal finance education in their public schools, but Rhode Island does not,” Magaziner said. “Financial education is vital in setting young people up for success in life, and Rhode Island has fallen behind in offering financial education in our schools.”

“We are letting our children down by not teaching them the most important and most needed skill in adulthood - financial literacy,” Cano said. “Without adequate financial literacy, our graduating students are put at a distinct disadvantage in starting their adult lives.”

“This must end for the sake of our students and I am looking forward to working with Treasurer Magaziner to ensure Rhode Island’s kids get the financial education that will benefit them so much later in life,” Cano added.

“All adults should possess the skills necessary to manage their money wisely,” McNamara added. “Not knowing the basics can lead to a web of bad credit and poor financial decisions. A high school diploma becomes a lot more valuable when it comes along with the ability to manage personal finances and avoid a lifetime of debt.”

The statewide standard that would be established by the bill would include a curriculum focusing on budgeting, maintaining credit, saving, investing, and protecting and insuring assets.

According to the House bill, Rhode Island’s college graduates have the second-highest student debt burden in the country and the state’s rate of seriously delinquent mortgage loans is ninth-highest in the nation. Meanwhile, the state lags behind the region in retirement savings and has the second-highest percentage of unbanked households in New England.

A December 2018 report published by the Treasurer’s office outlines the need for personal finance education in Rhode Island schools.

“While only one-third of Rhode Island high school graduates are receiving personal finance instruction currently, there is reason to be optimistic that with a thoughtful plan personal finance education in Rhode Island schools can expand dramatically,” the report states. “All but five Rhode Island public high schools already offer personal finance instruction on at least an elective basis, and multiple free and low-cost resources already exist to assist educators in expanding personal finance instructions in Rhode Island schools.”

Recommendations from the report were organized into four categories: providing more resources for personal financial educators; providing incentives to students to take personal finance electives; providing incentives to schools to offer personal finance courses; and improving data collection and reporting on the state of personal finance education in Rhode Island.

“Every Rhode Islander deserves the opportunity to achieve financial security and maintain a financially

stable life,” the report’s conclusion reads. “Unfortunately, we know that Rhode Island is not doing enough to help prepare all its public school students with the same basic set of financial skills that will help them develop strong financial habits and avoid costly mistakes.”

“The need for increasing personal finance education in the Ocean State is clear. Providing our students with the knowledge and skills to successfully navigate complex financial decisions has proven to be an effective method of producing better financial outcomes,” the conclusion continues. “In the absence of a basic financial knowledge, our students are more likely to make poor decisions relating student loans, credit cards, or payday loans that may cause damage to their financial future. We must do more to ensure we are setting our children up for financial success – an effort that starts in our K-12 schools.”

Follow Jonathan Bissonnette on Twitter @J_Bissonnette

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