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Published on February 28, 2024
Arizona Eyes Mandatory Personal Finance Course for High Schoolers Amid Legislative DebateSource: Unsplash/Sam Balye

The corridors of the Arizona State Legislature are buzzing with potential educational reform as a bill requiring high school students to take a personal finance course moves closer to becoming a graduation prerequisite. According to Arizona's Family, the proposed legislation, introduced by State Senator J.D. Mesnard, would see students grapple with the nuts and bolts of financial literacy, covering budgeting, investing, and planning for retirement.

The bill casts an eye on the class of 2028 to initiate this mandatory semester-long course. Mesnard expressed to Arizona's Family, "I’ve never had any kind of financial literacy training. It was all something I had to learn on my own." He argued that an education touching real-world applications like managing student loans and credit cards is crucial. However, in a legislative balancing act, the requirement wouldn't inflate the total credits needed to graduate. Arizona's State Treasurer, Kimberly Yee, echoed Mesnard's concerns, citing observations from 17 years past when she witnessed students at a university orientation signing up for credit cards without prior financial education.

In a stark, though not lonesome dissent, Democratic Senator Christine Marsh has vocalized her misgivings about potentially stripping students of elective classes that often keep them engaged in school. "I’m also really concerned about taking away a half credit elective from our students," Marsh stated in a Senate Education Committee session, as she highlighted the importance of arts and self-expression in the educational environment, according to Arizona's Family.

The legislation comes with echoes from past attempts to weave financial awareness into the school syllabus. The Arizona State Board of Education was previously mandated to include personal finance management in at least a half-credit economics course for graduation, a requirement from 2019. Yet, Treasurer Yee noted during her January board presentation that the extent of personal finance education within these economics classes remains ambiguous. "So, we still don't know what percentage of time is taught within that econ coursework," Yee remarked as reported by AZPM News.

Should the personal finance bill clear the legislative hurdles, including passage by the Senate and House with a signature from Governor Katie Hobbs, Mesnard assures that it would not tip the scales on the current 22-hour credit requirement to graduate, potentially slotting into existing elective credits or math requirements. Meanwhile, the bill has reportedly won bipartisan support at the committee level and looks to evolve with amendments setting sights on the class of 2030. AZPM News reports that Mesnard is committed to "armed with the tools to make good financial decisions" for Arizona's youth. Whether the bill becomes law or returns to the drafting board, its journey is a study of balancing educational goals against the practical needs of Arizona's students.

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