Knowing how to read a credit report may be as important to a student's future as basic reading and math. But there's no room for that on the FCAT.
So, to spur schools in that direction, an unlikely duo teamed up at Northeast High in St. Petersburg on Tuesday to unveil a tool for boosting financial literacy on kids' terms.
A video game.
Know how a down payment affects a mortgage? On Financial Football, your team marches up the field.
Don't know the minimum payment on a credit card? Your QB gets sacked.
"Ohhhhhh!" Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman cheered, high-fives all around, as his team of students defeated another "coached" by Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.
The interactive game is a joint effort among Visa, the National Football League and the NFL Players Association. It's also part of a statewide initiative led by Atwater, whose office is distributing the free game to every public middle school and high school.
"There were some tough questions" but there should be, Atwater said. "There's nothing easy about navigating your financial future."
Schools in 30 states use the game. It comes with curriculum for a weeklong program.
For the Florida rollout, supporters chose Northeast High, home to the well-regarded Academy of Finance. About 40 students were split into two teams while 50 others watched.
The game allows players to choose which NFL teams they want to be, which plays to run and how difficult the questions are. If the offense misses a question, the defense gets a chance.
After its first touchdown, Freeman's team (Bucs, of course) fielded this question for the extra point: A new car loses 20 percent of its value as soon as it's driven off the lot. True or False?
Freeman's team chose true.
Correct. On the screen, a football flipped through the goal posts.
(For those who believe in premonitions, Freeman's Bucs beat Atwater's Saints 13-0. The real Bucs and the New Orleans Saints play Sunday.)
Freeman addressed the students briefly, offering a cautionary tale. A young football player he knows got a shot in the NFL as a free agent, but took out a $50,000 line of credit before he secured a job.
"Two weeks later, he gets cut," Freeman said. "He's on the street … in terrible debt.
"Whether it's your parents, whether it's your teachers," he continued, "you have to take into account what they're saying."
Students got the message.
Schools don't teach enough about money, said KayAnn Kennedy, 18, an Academy of Finance student who plans to attend St. Petersburg College, then study business at Florida International University.
"It's why students get into debt," she said. "They don't learn how to plan for the real world."
Northeast football player Auggie Sanchez, 16, said the game taught him a lesson in a matter of minutes.
"It was kind of hard. I don't study this stuff every day," he said. "It made me realize that finances and money are a big part of life."
Ron Matus can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8873.