Board of Public Ed provides support for financial education and citizenship

The Montana Board of Public Education has been vocal in support of a proposal to add financial education and civics to the graduation requirements for Montana high school students.

The board’s endorsement came shortly after Gov. Greg Gianforte’s proposal to create the class requirements for graduation in early January. State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen said her office has been reviewing these requirements for nearly two years and commended the governor for recognizing the effort.

According to the Office of Public Instruction, the supplements would count as half a unit within the pre-existing 20-unit requirement for the degree and are flexible requirements set at the local level through math, social studies, or vocational technical equipment.

“There was little to no opposition,” Arntzen told Inter Lake, as she expects a vote of support when the board formally meets and votes on accepting the revised rules during the March 9-10, 2023 session.

Arntzen commended the Montana Board of Public Education for recognizing the importance of financial literacy and civics in preparing students for the future.

“Financial literacy classes give our students the tools they need to be personally successful beyond the classroom,” said Arntzen. “Civic education prepares our students to take an active part in government as they become the next generation of leaders in our great state and nation.”

Flathead County Superintendent Cal Ketchum previously told Inter Lake that he would personally advocate for a general math or finance class so students can learn the basics before graduation.

Montana legislatures also want to enact legislation addressing postgraduate courses. Rep. Braxton Mitchell, R-Columbia Falls, has contacted Arntzen to enact legislation mandating financial literacy courses. While the bill has yet to be introduced, it would create guidelines for schools across the state.

The Board of Public Education has legislative powers, Arntzen said, so if they vote for the requirements, they’ll be implemented independently of legislation. While many schools across the state already teach civics and economics, these efforts will codify the curriculum.

“We want to give children opportunities for the next stage of life,” said Arntzen.

Of Montana’s 173 high schools, all but 29 currently offer at least one course that integrates financial literacy, OPI said. The overhaul of the rules would ensure schools across the state teach financial literacy or economics, as well as civics or government.

Reporter Kate Heston can be reached at [email protected]