Financial literacy graduation requirement fades away in Florida legislative session

The bill’s primary Senate sponsor backs off amid competing priorities.
Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton
Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton
Published April 24, 2019|Updated April 26, 2019

Florida high school students are among the first to admit it: They need lessons in managing their finances, and school might be the best place to get the the information.

Yet for the sixth consecutive year, the Florida Legislature appears unwilling to add a financial literacy course to the list of high school graduation requirements — despite several lawmakers saying they wanted to do so in memory of the late Sen. Dorothy Hukill, who pushed for the concept throughout her tenure.

Sen. Travis Hutson, R-Elkton, quietly amended his workforce education bill (SB 770) last week to include a mandate that high schools offer financial literacy as a half-credit elective, instead of a graduation requirement. He did so after his bill singularly focused on having all students take the course (SB 114) languished in the Rules Committee and its House companion (HB 73) failed to be heard in the House PreK-12 Appropriations Committee before it closed for the 2019 session.

Mark Anderson, representing the Florida Council on Economic Education, lamented the change as the Senate Appropriations Committee discussed the workforce legislation during a marathon April 18 meeting.

After praising Hutson and others for advancing the idea of a financial literacy requirement, Anderson said he thought the Senate — where such a proposal has passed several times before being killed by the House — would have put forth “more of an effort to keep it in this bill.”

“This was not something the Senate accepted last year,” Anderson said, referring to the creation of an elective.

He suggested a workforce education bill should include the mandate, noting students who plan to begin jobs right after high school need the instruction on items such as understanding loans and credit perhaps more than anyone.

Hutson suggested he did not want to make the switch, but indicated it was the only path to at least get something related to a full financial literacy course on the books, rather than leaving it as a piece of another subject such as economics.

“It’s there,” he said of the new provision. “It’s not a mandate, but in conferring with all of our senators and their priorities, all of the House and their priorities, and the governor and his priorities, we made the decision to make it an elective and get it into the school system.”

SB 770 now is set for consideration by the full Senate. Its closest House companion (HB 7055), which is ready for a hearing before the full chamber, does not include financial literacy language.

UPDATE: The Florida House added the language that high schools must offer financial literacy as an elective into HB 7071, which passed the House 108-0 on April 25. The Senate has both the House bill and its own legislation available for consideration.