The state Senate on Tuesday night passed a bill that will make financial literacy education a graduation requirement for all Connecticut high schools.

The bill, which now heads to the state House of Representatives, passed in a 35-1 vote. State Sen. Rob Sampson, R-Wolcott, was the sole vote against the bill. 

State Sen. Herron Keyon Gaston, D-Bridgeport, said the requirement will help provide students with basic financial literacy skills that will help them understand how their own finances work, and make decisions accordingly.

“I think it’s important for students to know how to balance a checkbook,” Gaston said in a prepared release. “The community of Bridgeport will now have the opportunity to give students a better understanding of how to keep their finances in order. This financial literacy program will help drive individuals and their families out of poverty.”

In his remarks on the Senate floor, Sampson said opinions differ as far as what a financial literacy course should look like.

“Some people are conceiving this course on financial literacy to be something that is going to be above and beyond what is taught in school already so that people can manage their finances, maybe learn about the stock market. Maybe learn how to invest their money more wisely,” Sampson said. 

Sampson said he talked with people who understood the class to be more for students who have difficulty in math, and that the course is something to help with making change.

“Those are two widely different things,” Sampson said.

He added that decisions such as the financial literacy course and what it should include should be left to the local boards of education.

“We have different levels of government for a reason,” Sampson said. “Things like this traditionally, in our country, have been left up to the people closest to where the action is. A local board of education should be the law-making body that sets the policy for what the education curriculum is in a town.”

The bill has received much support from educators as well as financial planning and credit union representatives, who praised the vote as a move toward further preparing students for life after high school. Some organizations cautioned that the requirement limits student choice.

Should the bill pass the House and be signed into law, the requirement will begin with the 2027 graduating class. The bill requires students to fulfill a half credit of personal financial management and financial literacy.

State Sen. Doug McCrory
State Sen. Doug McCrory discusses the educational achievement gap during a meeting of the Education Committee on Friday, March 24, 2023. Credit: Screengrab / CT-N

Sen. Doug McCrory, D-Hartford, who also chairs the legislature’s Education Committee, praised the bill’s passage, saying it will level the playing field as all districts will require the class and offer the necessary resources needed to function in society.

He outlined statistics from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) that he says demonstrate the impact of financial literacy, as 53% of individuals with higher financial literacy spent less than their income and 65% put aside a three-month emergency fund.

The American Public Education Foundation, in a report card on financial literacy, gave Connecticut a ‘D’ – with one of the reasons for the low grade being that state does not require a stand-alone personal finance course for high school graduation although it does provide “some” financial literacy instruction.

Currently, the state does offer a variety of financial literacy resources through the web pages of its various state offices.