Ohio high school students will soon be required to pass at least one half-credit course in financial literacy in order to qualify for graduation, according to a new law signed last week by Gov. Mike DeWine.
Starting next school year, high schools can offer a financial literacy course as either an elective or math course. Students attending chartered non-public schools are exempt from the requirement, unless they attend the school using a state scholarship.
Beginning with the 2024-25 school year, each school must require a teacher to have an educator license validation in financial literacy to provide this instruction, the law states. Costs of obtaining license validation for instructors is to be covered by each individual district, with opportunities for reimbursement from the Ohio Department of Education.
Teachers who hold a valid educator license or endorsement to provide instruction in social studies, family and consumer sciences, or business education are exempt from the requirement to receive a financial literacy license validation to provide this instruction.
According to Montgomery County Educational Service Center Superintendent Shannon Cox, most school districts within the county already offer some form of financial literacy education, though this is usually included within the curriculum of other courses rather than as a standalone class.
“Now, we will have all the regulations of who can teach it and what credit it can count for, and so there are some discrepancies there to work through,” she said. “A social studies teacher can teach it, but it can’t count toward a social studies credit, which is a little awkward.”
The ODE will hash out logistics and give districts guidance and standards for implementing these courses, Cox said, after which each district will work to develop and adopt its own individual curriculum.
“The difference is that we’re not going to be able to imbed it anymore, so it will make an impact on how many courses a kid can take because this is going to take up a half-credit, or half a year,” she said.
Northmont City Schools spokeswoman Jenny Wood cited this issue as a concern for students who choose electives based on post-graduation plans.
“Financial literacy is important for all students, but making it a standalone class that all students are required to take will take away from elective course offerings that they may have been able to take in the past,” Wood said. “Many of our upper-level math and science courses are electives for our students who are interested in pursuing medical or engineering fields after high school.”
Northmont incorporates financial literacy education through an elective personal finance class within the business department, as well as through the high school’s government course and the DECA marketing program.
The new law also may present staffing challenges, as many districts throughout the state have already had issues filling positions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ll probably look into some shared staffing, and as an option, the ESC has an online financial literacy course that is an entire semester and we already offer that to school districts for free,” Cox said. “A lot of kids don’t want to go back to online learning, but in some cases it might be the way to get the students through if we can’t find the staff to teach it or don’t have the staff capacity.”
Cox said this online course could be taken over the summer to offset the effect the requirement would have on elective choices during the school year.