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Florida House panel advances financial literacy bill, with changes

The measure marked the final action of the PreK-12 Quality committee for the 2019 session.

In its final act before ending its business for the legislative session, the House PreK-12 Quality committee on Tuesday gave its full-throated support a bill that would require high school students complete a half-credit financial literacy course before graduation.

The bill was named after the late Sen. Dorothy Hukill, who tried a half-dozen times to pass such a requirement only to see it stymied in the House. In the 2018 session, a similar measure sailed through the Senate only to be watered down in the House to the point where a frustrated Hukill backed away from the initiative, intent on trying again in 2019.

Hukill died during the election season, and two fellow lawmakers from her Volusia County home base carried the legislation forward in her honor.

“She understood the need for financial literacy,” said Rep. Elizabeth Fetterhoff, R-DeLand, who sponsored HB 73. “It’s an important life skill and I truly believe we need to make this available to our students.”

Fetterhoff initially submitted the identical bill as Sen. Travis Hutson, whose SB 114 won unanimous backing in its first Senate stop.

But to get the bill to move in the House, Fetterhoff agreed to amendments that changed it from the Senate version. The House bill, for instance, offers students a way to test out of the requirement, something that does not appear in the Senate language.

House lawmakers joined members of the general public in proclaiming the importance of such a requirement.

“I worked in at the middle school, high school and college level, and I’ve seen how kids can misuse, especially with college level, financial aid money,” said Rep. Delores Hogan Johnson, D-Fort Pierce. “This is very much needed.”

Brett Burkey of the FAU Center for Economic Education agreed.

“These days, we teach a lot that isn’t going to matter in a significant way in students’ lives. There’s also so much we aren’t teaching that would be a better return on investment,” Burkey told the committee. “Financial literacy is a 21st century survival skill.”

It will be up to the two chambers to see if this year, unlike the past several, they can find an approach that both accept to turn this well liked proposal into law.

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

The PreK-12 Quality committee’s favorable decision on HB 73 marked the last act of that panel for the session, chairman Rep. Byron Donalds announced.

That move left 20 bills unheard that had the committee as a first point of reference. They could be sent on to other committees that still will meet, but more than likely, they are finished.

Among them were HB 1361, a measure to prohibit corporal punishment in Florida public schools, a bill whose companion won tepid approval from the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday. Also on that list were HB 1213, permitting native language assessments for students still learning English; HB 77, authorizing school districts to consider advanced degrees when setting salary schedules; HB 215, permitting school boards to increase their capital projects tax rate to 2.0 mills with a supermajority vote; and HB 1245, ending the use of VAM as a sole factor in determining the transfers of certain teachers.

Most, but not all, of the bills on the list were put forth by Democrats.

Donalds urged committee members to keep coming up with ideas for the 2020 session, which is just eight months off.

“Think through policy and quality issues that not just affect public schools, but private schools and charter schools, as well,” he told the panel, calling for proposals “that will make all of our students better.”