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November 17, 2009

State schools following county’s lead

Allegany ahead of curve with financial literacy requirement

CUMBERLAND — Allegany County public schools are “blazing a path” for the rest of the state in teaching young people how to handle their money, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot said Monday.

“We’re going to, frankly, stand on your shoulders,”said Franchot, who is pushing to make a semester-long financial literacy course a graduation requirement statewide.

Franchot, who has made trips to several other counties that mandate personal finance courses, visited a financial literacy class at Fort Hill High School Monday afternoon, chatting with students, the teacher and Allegany County Board of Education staff about how the program got started here.

The Allegany County Board of Education approved a financial literacy course last year, making it a graduation requirement starting with the Class of 2012. It’s currently offered as an elective for juniors and seniors.

“I’m not sure why Allegany and some other counties, which are not our most affluent areas, are moving forward with this and other areas are not,” Franchot said. “We want to export it to the larger counties. We think it’s going to have a positive impact on kids.”

Allegany County school administrators started considering a financial literacy course several years ago when the national press was full of stories about teen-agers and young adults with high credit card debt, said Janet Wilson, assistant superintendent of education. For the local community, teaching financial literacy to high school students makes sense, she said.

“Forty-eight percent of our kids are on free and reduced meals,” Wilson told Franchot. “With that, a lot of our kids work to help buy the car or help put gas in the tank. So a lot of our kids have the occasion to manage money early.”

The course covers everything from buying a car to choosing a career, paying income tax to understanding insurance. The textbook, titled, “Managing Your Personal Finances,” includes a chapter on managing credit card debt.

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