Georgia has become the latest state to enact a law requiring high school students to take a course in financial literacy as a graduation prerequisite.
Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed the bill into law as part of a package of more controversial education measures that allow the removal of certain books from school libraries and ban the teaching of what the law calls “divisive” concepts related to historical racism.
The financial literacy law calls for all students in either 11th or 12th grade to take a half-credit course in financial topics such as budgeting and credit management.
In a recent signing statement, Kemp wrote the new law will “ensure that they learn financial literacy in our schools, like the importance of good credit and how to budget properly, so that they are better prepared for the world beyond the classroom.”
Seven other states now require a stand-alone financial literacy course as a high school graduation pre-requisite. Five additional states have enacted similar laws that take effect in about the same time frame as Georgia’s, which kicks in for the 2024-2025 school year. About 25 states require at least some financial training, sometimes as part of an existing course.
Opponents of the state mandates say the requirements, while well-intended, can push other subjects to the sidelines or impose costly teacher training or hiring requirements.
But the trend got a boost since the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed that many people are in financial trouble because of job losses and the overall low savings rate nationwide.
Lawmakers in 34 states and the District of Columbia have introduced bills addressing financial literacy in the 2021-22 legislative sessions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Of those, about 20 focus on high schools.