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Florida House advances a financial literacy course ‘opportunity’ in bill that picks up HB 7055 pieces

The Senate has pushed for a financial literacy requirement for five years.
Brandon High School economics teacher Brian Ayres says his AP macroeconomics students don't get time to learn financial literacy, because it's not part of the curriculum. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
Brandon High School economics teacher Brian Ayres says his AP macroeconomics students don't get time to learn financial literacy, because it's not part of the curriculum. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]

A proposal to add a standalone high school financial literacy class to Florida's course offerings moved through the House Education Committee on Wednesday, falling short of what some members — not to mention some banking lobbyists and the state Senate — were hoping for.

Unlike the Senate, which would make the course a graduation requirement, HB 323 would establish the program as a voluntary "opportunity" for students. Sponsor Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen, R-Fort Myers, urged the committee to vote up her bill, suggesting it's a positive step forward rather than an uninspired half-step, as some members suggested.

Several representatives on the panel said they would oppose the measure to protest the fact that the financial literacy component did not create the urgency that the Senate has fostered.

Related coverage: Reading, writing and bank accounts: Should Florida require a high school course on money matters?

Left unaddressed in the short discussion were provisions within the bill that had been stripped from HB 7055, the House omnibus education legislation that the Senate overhauled on Tuesday.

House leaders have quietly moved items from the mega-bill into several other smaller bills that have advanced separately in the House. A week ago, for instance, the House moved its "reading scholarship" proposal from HB 7055 into HB 1035.

This time out, the committee inserted language on school board travel,  former superintendent lobbying and cost reporting into HB 323. The final section of the bill makes clear the moves:

"Contingent upon CS/HB 7055 or similar legislation in the 2018 Regular Session of the Legislature or an extension thereof failing to become law, for the 2018-2019 fiscal year, the sum of $850,000 in nonrecurring funds from the General Revenue Fund is appropriated to the Department of Education to implement the provisions of this act."

The repositioning of these pieces of HB 7055 could have the effect of allowing the House to let loose the omnibus  and still accomplish many of its education policy goals. But the Senate does not have identical legislation, meaning some compromises would have to emerge for either chamber's priorities to land on Gov. Rick Scott's desk.

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