HOLMEN, Wis. - Money management will soon be a required subject in Wisconsin schools.
Gov. Scott Walker signed the bill into law in December.
The new law mandates that school boards adopt financial literacy standards and curriculum for students in grades kindergarten through 12.
Teachers in the Holmen School District, however, are a step ahead.
For the past five years, the district has required students to take a personal finance class in order to graduate.
Holmen High School business teacher Chris Sullivan said expanding the curriculum to younger students is the right thing to do.
“The feedback that I always get from parents during parent-teacher conferences is, "I wish I had this class when I was in high school," said Sullivan.
The 11th-grade class covers such topics as banking and checking, and debt and credit.
“I think the credit stuff is really one that students have heard about before. They've seen the commercials. They've heard people talk about it, but they don't really understand it until they get the money and the numbers in front of them and realize how much damage can be done with some bad slip-ups early in their life,” said Holmen High School business teacher Amy McCutchen.
Sullivan said that making the class a requirement for graduation shows a lot of foresight by the teachers and school board members that came before him.
“I think we realized we were screwing this up long enough, that we had a group of kids that were graduating that didn't know anything financially,” said Sullivan.
Since 2013, the district's personal finance class has helped change what students know about money.
“At the end of the day, there's "nice to have" and there's "need to have,"” said Sullivan, “and the stuff here is "need to have" material. Every kid is going to have a job. Every kid is going to need to take care of their own retirement. Every kid is going to have to balance their checkbook and make these decisions that are going to impact them for decades to come."
Sullivan welcomes the new K-12 financial literacy curriculum requirement and will work with teachers from across the district to help develop lessons and standards for all grades.
“I think it's a step in the right direction,” said Sullivan. “I think that every district and every kid in the state of Wisconsin should know this material.”
By next school year, the district hopes to have standards and curriculum approved by the school board and implemented at every grade level.
The law doesn't say when schools should start teaching the curriculum.
All La Crosse County school districts will be working this year to create curriculum at every grade level.
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