The Pasco County school district can assign students a personal finance textbook despite its use of biblical verses, a hearing officer has ruled.
The book “Foundations in Personal Finance” by internet personal finance guru Dave Ramsey complies with Florida’s criteria for text adoptions, according to James A. Robinson, a hearing officer who ruled on the matter last week.
Critics who filed petitions under the state’s textbook adoption process said the book violated the Establishment Clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by quoting scripture in notes in the book’s margins. One example was this citation from Proverbs 22.7: “Don’t become a prisoner or slave to debt!”
But Robinson noted that the margins also contained quotes from Aristotle, Maya Angelou, Winston Churchill and Yogi Berra.
“These citations contain maxims and adages on the topic of personal finance, debt, and thrift, and reflect basic truths generally accepted in the culture,” he wrote in his Oct. 16 ruling. “There is no attempt to convert anyone to a particular religious viewpoint.”
The petitioners also said Ramsey writes disparagingly about economically disadvantaged people, referring to impoverished families as “busted” and “broke.”
Speaking in defense of the textbook were a principal, an assistant principal and officials in leadership positions in the Pasco district’s Office for Leading and Learning. They introduced 44 exhibits in support of the textbook.
Parent and teacher Jessica Jecusco-Wright expressed her disappointment in the decision.
“This means Pasco parents can’t opt out and teachers and students won’t have access to high quality materials,” she said. “Ramsey’s materials belong in the school library, not as mandatory material for a graduation-required course.”