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Officials consider requiring finance class

2/11/2014

By RYAN McCARTHY

By RYAN McCARTHY

KU Statehouse Wire Service

TOPEKA -- The fight about required courses for high school students was not just about English and social studies Monday.

Legislators on the House Education Committee discussed a bill that would require a personal financial literacy course for high school students.

After endorsements from Jack Sossoman, Shawnee County leader of Americans for Prosperity, and State Treasurer Ron Estes, Walt Chappell, president of Education Management Consultants, answered several questions from committee members.

"How these kids can go out and survive without those basic math principles and understanding how the world works; we're sending them out as sheep to the wolves," Chappell said. "We're sending them out for every scammer to take advantage of them and to get into hot water very quickly."

Several of the representatives used some of their personal accounts of financial literacy with their own children.

Rep. Melissa Rooker, R-Fairway, said the class would not have fit into her son's class schedule. Her son was taking college prep courses and a music elective.

Following nearly an hour of questions for Chappell, Carol Werhan of Pittsburg State University provided more testimony about the bill.

"Our philosophy is that personal finance must be taught contextually in order to change behavior," Werhan said.

Werhan said family and consumer sciences teachers are the best people to teach these things. Some of the problems are getting those teachers into the needed areas of the state.

Tom Krebs, a government relations specialist with the Kansas Association of School Boards, provided opposing testimony to the bill.

Krebs talked about how local communities and school boards can determine what is necessary.

He said it would be a mistake to make it an institutionalized process for every teen because some would miss out on an art or music class because of the requirement.

Mark Desetti, director of Govermental Affairs for the Kansas National Education Association, also testified against the bill.

"Requiring this course for a lot of kids that don't need it is not the way to go," Desetti said.

Some high school students were at the K-ACTE 2014 Legislative Day to present career and technical education. A few of the students were open to the idea.

"I think it's a great idea because a lot of people don't know what to do when they get out into the real world," Manhattan student Payton Gehrt said. "If people would know how to take care of their personal finances at an young age, I think that would help them later in life."