WNPR

College Gives Connecticut An 'F' Rating For Financial Literacy

Dec 18, 2017

Connecticut is among the worst states in the country when it comes to being financially literate, according to a recent report by Champlain College.

Champlain looked at programs in all 50 states to see which ones were producing financially literate high school graduates. Connecticut got an F. It was on the bottom with Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and a handful of other states.

The state's has been dealing with budget problems for years; the recently-passed budget was already hundreds of millions in the hole as soon as the governor signed it.

Chris Lee, president of Connecticut JumpStart, a local nonprofit that works to get financial literacy into schools, said a part of the budget problem might be because lawmakers aren't very financially literate.

"I've always said I think a lot of members of the House and Senate both need to take some financial literacy courses and get some background in it before they go in to do some budget talks just to understand how all this stuff works," Lee said, jokingly. "I get amazed, because we've gone up and testified, presenting some data, and just the questions that we get. They don't understand financial literacy and they don't understand why it's important."

Lawmakers do require the state to offer a financial literacy curriculum, but there is no statewide mandate to teach it. According to Lee's own research, only 7 percent of Connecticut students are required by their high schools to take a financial literacy course. 

Lee said the biggest obstacle is, ironically, money. With the state budget constantly in flux, schools are leery about starting new programs, or canceling others to make room for financial literacy. Schools can work with existing staff, but then the question is, who?

"Is it family consumer science, which used to be the old home [economics] back in the days, is it gonna be the business department, the math department feels capable of being able to teach that stuff," he said.

An education department spokesman pointed out that most high schools do offer personal finance as a class. However, it's not a required course.   

"The Connecticut State Department of Education has endorsed and promoted personal finance education in all school districts," the department said in a statement. "To assist better assist educators, a personal finance model curriculum has been developed by administrators and teachers from across the state. We also welcome teachers to submit lesson plans to be added to this curriculum.”