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Coalition calls for investment in financial literacy education

Published: Monday, Aug. 3 2015 7:44 a.m. MDT

A Senate committee voted unanimously to advance a bill that would improve the quality of financial literacy education in public high schools. (Shutterstock) A Senate committee voted unanimously to advance a bill that would improve the quality of financial literacy education in public high schools. (Shutterstock)

SALT LAKE CITY — Responding to the need for greater personal financial literacy in the state, a coalition of students, educators, lawmakers and finance professionals gathered in the Capitol rotunda Wednesday to urge legislative action.

The event, hosted by the Utah JumpStart Coalition, was held in support of SB40, which calls for a $500,000 appropriation to improve the quality of financial literacy instruction for high school students through training and certification of teachers and an end-of-level assessment.

"I have seen the impact of people not making wise decisions, not knowing how to balance a checkbook, not knowing what to do specifically when it comes to investments, when it comes to insurance," JumpStart Coalition President Steve Anderson said. "We've got to take (financial literacy) a step further."

Sen. Pat Jones, D-Holladay, sponsored the 2008 bill that required a semester of financial literacy instruction for high school students. But in the years since that bill became law, many of the courses taught at Utah's high schools have struggled under a lack of qualified instructors, leading to an inconsistent curriculum and ambivalence from students, Jones said.

"These are issues that really affect every family," she said. "We really need to raise the bar on financial literacy."

Utah State Treasurer Richard Ellis also participated in the event and said that finances have become increasingly complex in today's world. Ellis said there is an increasing pressure to make long-term financial decisions early in life, and it's important that individuals understand economic basics.

"I look at financial literacy as probably the most practical skill that we can teach our students today in high school and middle school," he said.

Jones presented SB40 to members of the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday. The committee voted unanimously to advance the bill with a favorable recommendation.

The bill will now go before the full Senate for debate.

Email: benwood@deseretnews.com Twitter: bjaminwood

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