Comptroller Peter Franchot denied that his push for financial literacy requirements in all state schools was a product of his political ambitions, “which may or may not include a run for governor.”
“It’s the right thing to do,” he insisted.
But “if I were to run for governor, and if I were fortunate to win,” Franchot said he would have “a litmus test for any appointment to the state school board” or the local boards of education where the governor still makes the choice. They would have to support a financial literacy course requirement for graduation.
If a school board nominee chose to “side with the bureaucrats” in resisting the course requirement, “you would not receive an appointment or retention in a Franchot administration.”
This was apparently the first time he has made reference to a position he might take if elected governor.
The state school board has established a financial literacy curriculum integrated into other courses, but for a fourth year in a row, Franchot is backing legislation that mandates a course in personal finance as a requirement for high school graduation.
School systems in six counties have established the requirement – Carroll, Talbot, Allegany, Frederick, Charles and Calvert counties.
But school boards elsewhere have adamantly opposed a legislative mandate, as they routinely oppose other meddling by legislators in what schools should teach.
Franchot noted that the President’s national financial literacy initiative ranks Maryland high school students 37th in the nation on their knowledge of personal finance.
According to the 2012 Assets and Opportunities Scorecard, Maryland came in 45th for credit card debt with an average balance of $13,000, compared to a national average of $10,852.
Some counties object to the possible cost, but cosponsor Sen. Rich Colburn, R-Dorchester, said, “This can be done at little or no cost.”
“We cannot afford not to do this,” said Tammy Darvish, vice president of DARCARS Automotive Group. She said her company sees thousands of credit reports each month, and “it’s shocking to see the damage that has already occurred.”
There are basic financial skills, such as balancing a checkbook or understanding interest rates, that should be “standard equipment” in any education.
There was a hearing on the bill Wednesday, at which Franchot submitted a petition with 10,000 signatures supporting the measure. Sponsored by Sen. Katherine Klausmeier, the Senate has passed the legislation two years in a row, but it has failed to make it out of the House Ways and Means Committee.