As of 2022, only 23 states in the U.S. require a financial literacy course to graduate and since 2020 only 2 states have been added in 2022 (Council for Economic Education, 2022). What is even more interesting is that only 4 states require it on standardized testing. There are some additional states that require a course in economics, which integrates some financial literacy awareness, but economics does not focus on specifically individualized, personal financial literacy. Financial literacy is defined as “the ability to understand and effectively use various financial skills, including personal financial management, budgeting, and investing” (Fernando, 2021) and it is the foundation of your relationship with money. Knowing the limited amount of financial literacy, as a special educator, it is likely that this is also doing a significant disservice to underserved and minority populations in schools including our special education students. I taught secondary mathematics and Algebra to inclusion and resource special education students for 11 years, not once was financial education, literacy, or behavior a “requirement.” If we as society want to change the financial situation of the country, home states, communities, and families, we need to start focusing on meaningful mathematics financial literacy education that is used by 100% of the population instead of solving multi-step trigonometric equations, conic sections, and calculus derivatives that is used by 1-5% of the population. For a personal perspective, when was the last time you had to solve one of these types of problems in everyday life versus the last time you had to count out change or use your debit or credit card? However, as a math teacher and supporter of gifted and talented instruction and twice-exceptional students, I do want to note that I also recognize the importance of abstract thinking, mathematics problem solving, and the need for advanced mathematics, especially with the advancements in computer science, career technology, and STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). These curriculums all play a role in education, each with their own goal or purpose. One of my passions just happens to be supporting students who are struggling in mathematics and daily living skills leaving which leaves them vulnerable to personal financial ruin.
To supplement specifically in special education, the Individuals with Disabilities with Education Act (IDEA, 2014), however, does require transition services, which includes financial literacy skills, to be implemented prior to a special education student turning 16, which in some states their is a stricter requirement at age 14. Transition services is a federal regulation that is defined by IDEA as “…a coordinated (i.e., schools, interagency participation, therapists, families, student) set of activities for a child with a disability, that is designed to be within a results-oriented process, that is focused on improving the academic and functional achievement of the child with a disability to facilitate the child’s movement from school to post-school activities, including postsecondary education, vocational education, integrated employment (including supported employment), continuing and adult education, adult services, independent living, or community participation…” Most educators, families, businesses, and community members would likely agree that financial literacy education would fall within this regulation of preparing our special education students for life after high school including post-secondary employment (e.g., taxes, unemployment, social security, retirement, reading pay stubs, wages, direct deposit), independent living skills (e.g., purchasing goods and services, paying bills, savings accounts, checking accounts, transportation costs, how to write a check, differentiating between credit and debit), and post-secondary education (e.g., tuition, financial aid, college living expenses, student loans, grants, scholarships, travel expenses).
According to the CEE 2022 Survey of the States Report, “Effective financial education needs to be well-defined for educators; relevant to learners; provided by educators who are competent in the subject matter; reflective of thoughtful educational design; started at an early age; and linked to decisions that learners are readily able to make.” If you are an educator or local community member and would like more information on how to advocate in your state and learn how to become a trained educator and advocate, I would recommend reviewing the CEE’s Advocacy Tool Kit. If you are a researcher and are interested in supportive research, the CEE also has a list of 24 published resources titled Making the Case for the Need for Economic and Financial Literacy Education in the Classroom.
Although financial literacy education starts in the schools, based on the data, it is most likely that teachers will need support in access to financial literacy resources, especially technology due to the increase in digital, remote, blended, online, and virtual learning. Since technology is another one of my many passions, with the support of my colleague, Fanee Webster at the University of Oklahoma, we have compiled a list of digital-based resources below to support teachers and students in exploring and integrating financial literacy in the home, at school, and with families. Please feel free to explore a few of our favorite financial literacy digital resources to improve financial education in the schools, financial literacy instruction for teachers, and positive financial behaviors of all students including those with disabilities.