HB 203 would require high schools to teach financial literacy, and students would need to take a half-credit to graduate.

Financial literacy may become graduation requirement

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Government

HB 203 would require high schools to teach financial literacy, and students would need to take a half-credit to graduate.

HB 203 would require high schools to teach financial literacy, and students would need to take a half-credit to graduate.

Delaware students may soon be required to take a financial literacy class in order to graduate. 

House Bill 203, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Hilovsky, R-Millsboro, would require public schools to teach financial literacy, which is essentially how to make smart decisions about money.

A unanimous vote in the House Education Committee Wednesday sent it to House ready list for debate on the floor.

The bill requires high schools to provide a minimum of a half-credit course on financial literacy, beginning with students entering ninth grade in the 2025-2026 school year.

Students will need to pass the course to graduate in order to earn their diploma. 

Opponents argued they were worried that financial literacy means different things to different communities and that it would be hard for some schools to incorporate a half-credit class into their schedules.

Hilovsky previously pointed to data that shows 60% of U.S. households live paycheck to paycheck, 40% of Americans have less than $300 in savings, 33% of Americans have saved nothing for retirement, 95% of Americans have not saved enough for retirement and 87% of American teens admit to not understanding their finances.

Some of the topics in financial literacy courses include budgeting, insurance plans, saving, student loans, mortgages, interest rates and even simple matters like how to fill out a check and balance a checkbook.

RELATED: State Rep: We must teach financial literacy in school

“This is going uplift and give people a win in life,” Hilovsky said.

Schools are in the opportunity business, he said. Part of that needs to be teaching students how to  reach their full potential in practical matters, too.

No one dreams of being in poverty or struggling financially, he said. Teaching financial literacy will help level the playing field. 

“This bill includes all Delaware high school students and gives them the opportunity to understand and navigate the complex and challenging world of personal finance,” he said. 

Some financial mistakes can hinder and trap a young adult for the rest of their lives, he pointed out. 

Many schools do teach some sort of financial literacy, but most of the schools that don’t are in poorer neighborhoods. 

Rep. Eric Morrison, D-Glasgow, said it’s important to recognize that a student’s background, like race and family’s socioeconomic class, largely determines their financial literacy needs.

That’s why, Holovsky said, the bill allows local control and each district can adopt a curriculum that fits their needs. 

“It’s probably going to be a little bit different instruction like in a town like Laurel versus somebody in center city Wilmington,” Hilovsky said. “Their life experiences are different so I think they should have the right to pick and choose which individual subjects they’re going to teach within the course.”

Morrison was upset about one line in the bill that says one teaching point would be “comparing financial systems, including what works and what does not and why.”

The country has record highs of financial inequality in America and different systems work for different individuals, he said.

Hilovsky agreed to strike that line from the bill. 

Lake Forest Superintendent Steven Lucas supported the bill but said some districts might have to be creative with how to fit it in as a requirement. 

Lake Forest, for example, doesn’t offer other half-credit classes, and under the bill a half-credit in financial literacy would be needed to graduate. 

Rep. Kim Williams, D-Marshallton and chair of the committee, said she also was concerned about it being a mandatory graduation requirement, but supported the purpose of the bill. So did others.

About 20 people offered public comments, and similar to the legislators, people supported teaching financial literacy but were split on whether it should be a graduation requirement. 

Education Secretary Mark Holodick said local school boards should dictate if financial literacy should be required, not the legislature.

Also Wednesday: 

  • House Bill 188, sponsored by Rep. Sherae’a Moore, D-Middletown, codifies the Equity Ombudsman program, which provides students and families facing educational inequity with non-lawyer advocates to assist them. 

RELATED: New Del. ombudsman program has helped 70 struggling students

HB 188 was released by committee and is on its way to the House floor for discussion. 

  • House Bill 174, also sponsored by Moore, requires any student who has had two out-of-school suspensions in a school semester, or trimester, to be referred to the student’s school-based problem-solving team.

The team will provide both academic and non-academic intervention, including any recommendations based on the team’s assessment of the student.

HB 174 was released and heads to the House floor 

  • Senate Bill 156, sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth “Tizzy”  Lockman, D-Wilmington, provides teachers who previously worked as paraprofessionals in schools partial credit towards their experience on the teacher salary scale for their time in that position. 

The bill points out that there’s situations under the current salary scale for teachers where a permitted paraprofessional in a school becomes a certified teacher in the same school, they may have to take a pay cut. 

Lockman has said this bill will help combat the teacher shortage as well as potentially diversify the workforce. 

The Delaware School Boards Association, Delaware Association of School Administrators and Delaware Charter Schools Network all expressed strong support for the bill. 

SB 156 heads to the House floor for a vote before landing on Gov. John Carney’s desk for signature. 

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