I have spent over a decade as a teacher, and there is one course that is “personal” for me and my students: personal finance.
During my time at Sandia High School as a teacher for the Distributive Education Clubs of America, I spent my time teaching students the fundamental skills they will need to make important financial decisions for the rest of their lives. This includes skills and concepts such as how to apply for college financial aid, how to save and invest, how to manage their money so they can achieve the goals that are most important to them, and how to become an entrepreneur.
There is no greater reward than having students come back to tell me that the knowledge they learned in my class helped them make a very important life decision or avoid a costly mistake. Unfortunately, not all students receive this opportunity in our state.
I was disheartened to learn that only 11% of New Mexico high school students take a personal finance course before graduation and that our state is one of only five states that has yet to adopt the standards of personal finance K-12. It is imperative that this course be completed by all students before entering the workforce or entering post-secondary institutions.
Many of my current and former students not only express their gratitude for the skills they learned while taking this course, but they also tell me how they have shared their knowledge with their parents and other family members. A student told me that she helped her mother avoid buying a car because she could identify financing terms that were not in her mother’s best interest. Empowering students and families with this knowledge helps our state move forward against intergenerational poverty.
Every year New Mexico waits to make personal finance a graduation requirement, students miss out.
I understand that a concern that has been expressed relates to the location of the course in the curriculum – for example, social studies or math – and whether a new requirement will impose a burden on school districts. While I teach a year-long personal finance course in a very urban district, I understand that many districts in our state, especially rural areas, may not have the resources or an instructor to deliver a personal finance course. independent personal finance.
However, I recently learned that Rep. Moe Maestas, D-Albuquerque, plans to introduce legislation that would provide flexibility to local schools and school districts while ensuring that every student receives this essential instruction, whether offered as a stand-alone personal finance course, substituted for a math credit, or integrated into a personal finance and economics course. This legislation would also allow teachers with honors in math, social studies, business education, and family and consumer science to teach this course, providing even more options for local schools.
With strong personal finance standards under consideration by our public education department, and effective professional development and implementation, we can ensure that every student has the opportunity to learn these skills and be prepared. for wherever their life takes them. As an experienced personal finance teacher, I know of a wide range of free resources available from credit unions and various non-profit organizations that all teachers can use in their classroom.
Given that this year’s legislative session is a short session, during which only the Governor’s budget bills and priorities can be presented, we need the Governor’s support to move Maestas’ legislation forward during the session 2022. I implore Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to put personal finance education on her agenda for the next legislative session, and I urge our legislature to support all students, teachers, and families by passing legislation ensuring that every high school student will learn about personal finance.
Linda Wilson is a member of the Albuquerque Teachers’ Federation.