Balance the Curriculum

 District ponders whether financial literacy should join language literacy as a graduation requirement

By Alyssa Birkeland, Current Staff

The West Bend High Schools business department believes there is a great need for better financial literacy among adults, and is trying to make that happen starting in high school.

According to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, as of 2014, 32 percent of American adults are not saving for retirement at all, 34 percent carry credit card debt from month to month, and 60 percent haven’t reviewed their credit score report in the last 12 months.

Seventy-three percent say they would benefit from advice and information on everyday financial questions.

If the business department gets its way, a personal finance class would be mandatory for future graduates of West Bend East and West. It is already required in about 50 percent of other Wisconsin high schools.

Allison Holtzer, who teaches this class in addition to yearbook, business co-op, and web design, is strongly in support of it becoming mandated. She has also seen first-hand the support from others. “I have heard from a lot of parents asking why it’s not required. A majority of the students in the class ask that too, because it really is teaching life skills that will help everyone,” Holtzer said.

“There are studies out there on adults saying how much financial trouble they are in. That’s because they were never taught.”
– Allison Holtzer, business teacher

Al Pauli, the district’s chief academic officer, also believes that financial literacy is very important for a high school graduate. But he isn’t sure about requiring it for all students.

“I don’t know that [a personal finance class] is the only way for a student to demonstrate that they’re financially literate,” Pauli said.

Pauli proposed that the same information could be offered and infused into a variety of courses, such as economics or entrepreneurship, and that mandating a personal finance course may not be the best option.

A change in requirements will have to go through a long process before a final decision is made. First, it would go through Curriculum and Instruction, which Pauli leads. If that department is in favor of it, the course moves on to Board Instruction. From there, the school board would vote on it to become a required half-credit. The whole process takes about six months, and would be implemented for the incoming freshman class, Pauli said.

Right now, the district is at the very beginning stages of this process. “We are just starting to collect data showing why it needs to be required,” Holtzer said. Curriculum and Instruction is listening for different ideas to be proposed on the topic.

Holtzer and the business department hope to see the process through to the requirement of this course, and eventually the financial literacy of all students that leave the West Bend High Schools.

“There are studies out there on adults saying how much financial trouble they are in, how much help they need. That’s because they were never taught, and that has gotten passed down generations. Now high school students are in the same position, but now they can actually take a class and learn it,” Holtzer said.

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