Dubuque School District works to create financial literacy graduation requirement per new state law

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) -- A new state law requires high school students across Iowa to take a financial literacy course in order to graduate, and it's causing the Dubuque Community School District to speed up its own plan to establish that same requirement.

Kids work in a financial literacy course at Dubuque Senior High School on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. (Allison Wong, KCRG-TV9)

 Last November, the school board approved the financial literacy graduation requirement. Board president Tami Ryan said it's something the district has wanted to do for years.

The district's plan was to introduce mandatory financial literacy for the class of 2022, this year's freshmen class.

However, the state law says this literacy graduation requirement must start with this year's junior class, or the class of 2020.

DCSD Career and Technical Education Curriculum Coordinator David Moeller said it's challenging to get the curriculum put together so quickly.

The state requires the semester-long course to address nine key areas: savings, understanding investments, wealth building and college planning, credit and debt, consumer awareness of the power of marketing on buying decisions, financial responsibility and money management, insurance, different types of insurance coverage and buying and renting.

Senior High School business teacher Jim Evans said that's a lot to pack into one semester, but that it's needed.

"This class is needed by everybody," he said.

He's currently teaching a financial literacy course. It's not required, but offered for students to take voluntarily.

On Wednesday, his class was working on credit and interest rates. He said they cover many other topics.

"We just finished a unit on banking. Before that we had a unit on consumer spending. And then next unit will be on investments," Evans said.

Most students come to his class with little financial knowledge, said Evans. Once they start learning the curriculum, he can see them making connections.

"The lights are going on. It’s clicking," he said. "A lot of times they go home and talk to moms and dads about it, and that helps."

Evans said it's long overdue for the state to make this a graduation requirement.

"Every kid needs to learn these things. You know, from the kids that are in honors classes all the way to the general population, everyone needs this stuff. Because they’re all going to have to be dealing with it," he said.

Eleventh grade student Payton Zentz agrees. She's taking the financial literacy course now and is happy with what she's learning.

"We’ve learned, like, about our debt and how our government spends their money and I think that’s really useful," said Zentz. "We just did a whole unit on check writing, so now I’m, like, a check expert.”

She believes all students should learn about finances.

"A lot of people get out of high school and they’re like, 'I don’t know how to pay my taxes, I don’t know how to do any of this stuff,' but I mean if you take this class then you do. And I think that’s really helpful," she said.

Senior William Redfearn said he's taking the class to prepare for college.

"I’m gonna go into college after this and I want to know how to save my money and not go in debt when I’m in college," he said.

He wants his younger classmates to take advantage of this class.

Redfearn said, "I feel like if they take this class in high school, they’ll be more prepared for college.”

Moeller said they hope to have the state-approved curriculum ready as early as this summer.