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Students testify for financial literacy education bill

NAHS sophomore Chisom Agbanari testifies at the State House on
Wednesday, Jan. 10, for a bill that would make financial literacy
classes a requirement for graduation at public high schools in
Massachusetts. Staff Photo/Adam Bassabass@northstarreporter.com

Meghan Lee is a North Attleborough High School senior who will graduate in five months.

One of her graduation requirements was taking classes on financial literacy. During these classes, Lee learned about managing budgets, investing and maintaining a high credit score.

Lee said the classes changed her life, which is why she and three other students are asking the legislature to support H. 4199, a bill that would make financial literacy classes a requirement for graduation at all Massachusetts public high schools.

The bill, filed by state Rep. Ryan Hamilton (D-Methuen), would establish a fund that would give grants to schools to teach financial literacy courses. The fund, known as the Financial Literacy Trust Fund, would be overseen by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and would provide grants to all public schools—including those in economically disadvantaged areas.

The bill has 16 co-sponsors, including state Sen. Paul Feeney (D-Foxboro) and state Rep. Adam Scanlon (D-North Attleborough). Feeney told the North Star Reporter that middle-class residents can benefit from learning financial literacy to navigate an “uneven economy.”

“I believe a key component of success for the middle class is financial education,” Feeney said. “If we can promote financial literacy early in a person’s life, they will be better prepared and set up for success in the future.”

Scanlon, who attended NAHS and graduated in 2015, said he remembers taking the financial literacy courses and said they have helped him with his personal finances in the present day. Scanlon said NAHS can set an example for what a successful financial literacy program can look like in Massachusetts high schools and throughout the country.

“The success in North Attleborough and what I hear from others is why I support this bill,” Scanlon said. “I think this really empowers young people, and I am incredibly proud of those who are stepping up to have this policy that would not only lift up our community but the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

As Lee sat before the Joint Committee of Education at the Massachusetts State House on Jan. 10, she told legislators she had heard concerns from her peers about their financial future. As co-chair  of the Southeast Regional Student Advisory Council, Lee said she frequently hears from students who are worried about the increased  cost of housing and food. She said that high school students are becoming more anxious about their future economic situation and are looking for people to teach them financial literacy and management.

“One of the most critical topics in my discussions is financial literacy education,” Lee said. “H4119 will ensure that the next generation is prepared to manage their assets and their financial responsibilities.”

According to Lee, North Attleborough is one of 17 school districts in Massachusetts where financial literacy classes are required for graduation. Other districts include Framingham and Worcester, where personal financial literacy classes are offered to students. The financial literacy non-profit NextGen Personal Finance labeled the school a “Gold Standard For Financial Literacy” in 2021.

While NAHS has received praise for its financial literacy curriculum, most Massachusetts high schools still do not have the course as a graduation requirement. NAHS sophomore Chisom Agbanari, who also testified in front of the committee, said students in high schools without financial literacy courses deserve the same education she and her classmates are receiving

“It is important to provide students across the commonwealth with the accurate skills they need to be financially secure,” Agbanari said. “We need to ensure that every student has personal financial education at their high school.”

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