Montgomery County Public Schools officials on Tuesday are expected to recommend to the school board whether a financial literacy course should be mandatory for high school students prior to graduation.

In October, student school board member Hana O’Looney asked the district to explore the feasibility of requiring high school students to take a half-credit class on concepts like filing taxes, applying for student aid and understanding credit scores.

She said it is the “single most” common request from students with whom she speaks.

In the months since, the idea has largely been met with praise by community members, who say the “real-world” skills are critical for students to be prepared for college or a career.

The school board will review the district staff’s recommendation Tuesday. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Meeting documents were not posted as of Friday afternoon, so the expected recommendation was not publicly known.

In January, MCPS staff members provided a report to the school board that said requiring the financial literacy course is possible, but doing so would mean reducing the number of credits required in other areas or increasing the number of credits needed to earn a diploma.

The report said the requirement could be made possible by:
• Increasing the number of credits required for graduation from 22 to 22.5
• Decreasing electives credits by 0.5
• Decreasing the physical education requirement by 0.5 (MCPS currently requires a full credit, which is more than what the state requires).

The report also said the school board should consider the possible consequences of the move, including:
• Its impact on students’ ability to pursue other courses that interest them
• Staffing implications
• How it would affect the number of students “in danger of not graduating.” For example, according to school board documents, 1,138 seniors this school year are taking a full schedule of courses required for graduation.

Alternatives to making the course a requirement would be to increase access to an electives course for high school students; provide the lessons in a math course; or develop “modules” that are not credit-bearing but are required for graduation, similar to the state requirement that students perform a minimum of 75 service-learning hours in order to graduate.

O’Looney has been adamant, however, that the course content should not be optional.

At January’s board meeting, she said: “Honestly, as a school system, I don’t think our job is done with our students and we can confidently say our students are really ready for college, career and community until they have these basic fundamental skills.”

The meeting agenda lists the topic as a discussion item, not an “action item,” meaning final action is not expected.

If the school board ultimately decides to mandate a financial literacy course, the requirement would begin with the class of 2028.

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com

Caitlynn Peetz

Caitlynn Peetz can be reached at caitlynn.peetz@bethesdamagazine.com