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Nov 13, 1:34 PM EST

Arkansas high schools to teach financial literacy


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) -- Arkansas students won't be able to graduate from high school without some understanding of financial planning, taxes and household budgeting.

A new law approved by lawmakers this year mandates that students receive instruction on a range of standards related to financial literacy, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported . The law, dubbed the Personal Finance and Job Readiness Act, will take effect with the class of 2021.

All high school students are currently required to study economics, and some of the courses relate to personal finance. But the new law presents additional topics that will be required to be taught, said Marsha Masters, associate director of Economics Arkansas, an education nonprofit.

The law doesn't require schools to specially offer a personal finance course. It instead directs the Arkansas Department of Education to develop personal and family finance standards that can be incorporated into existing courses.

"We have written those standards. We are now taking those standards and embedding them into the economics course," said Stacy Smith, director of instruction and curriculum at the department.

The standards will be presented to the Board of Education for approval next month.

Too many students leave school unaware of financial issues they're bound to encounter in the real world, said Little Rock Republican Rep. Andy Davis, who sponsored the bill.

"We hear from employers around the state quite a bit about employees changing jobs a lot or just having general employment problems that stem from personal finance issues," Davis said.

Statistics from the nonprofit Prosperity Now show that less than half of Arkansas residents have a prime credit score of 720 or higher. The state is ranked 44th in the country in that category, according to the nonprofit.

Only students in grades 10 and up will get credit for taking the personal finance standards because the curriculum is more relevant to older students who have jobs and are closer to adulthood, Davis said.

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Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.nwaonline.com

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