Personal finance education belongs in PED standards

As the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) revamps the state’s K-12 social studies standards, it is imperative we ensure all students are provided with the skills necessary for navigating life after they graduate. One essential element should be personal finance education.

We commend the PED for its work to bring the state’s social studies standards into the 21st century. However, we believe the department’s proposal would be greatly strengthened by the inclusion of personal finance standards.

Our neighboring states, among them Arizona, Colorado, Texas and Utah, have adopted standards to ensure their students learn the financial skills required for personal and professional success. In fact, New Mexico is currently one of only five states that has not incorporated personal finance into our K-12 education standards.

Personal finance standards will make sure New Mexico’s students learn how to make a budget, open an account at a bank or credit union, save and invest for their futures, and avoid high-cost debt.

During the most recent legislative session, Dixon co-sponsored and Figueroa strongly supported a legislative effort led by Reps. Moe Maestas, D-Albuquerque, and Willie Madrid, D-Chaparral, to make personal finance a graduation requirement. The bill received strong bipartisan support, passing the House unanimously before running out of time in the Senate.

That effort, and adding personal finance to the education standards, builds on Maestas’ successful 2007 reform that required financial literacy to be offered as an elective in New Mexico’s high schools. Unfortunately, only about 11% of students currently complete that course.

Adopting strong personal finance standards lays the foundation for guaranteeing that all students of all backgrounds are receiving equitable instruction, and are provided the skills necessary for financial planning and decision-making when they enter the workforce or post-secondary institutions.

In October 2018, researchers at the University of New Mexico released a report showing that two of every three private-sector workers in New Mexico have no money saved for retirement. Nearly 80% have less than $10,000 saved. This continues to weigh heavily on the wallets of many New Mexicans. Should there be another pandemic, or major recession, our state will be better off if we have prioritized teaching our state’s students about savings, investing, costs of borrowing and how credit works.

Addressing personal finance will make the school curriculum more relevant and ensure that students who do not learn how to manage their personal finances at home are not left behind. This material also helps us fight cycles of generational poverty, which has plagued our state for decades. The skills developed by students will be shared with their family members, who could also gain from this information.

Personal finance education also supports the findings from the Martinez/Yazzie lawsuit by providing students – especially low-income, Native American, English language learner, and those with disabilities – the skills and knowledge necessary to be college- and career-ready. The ruling found the state failed to meet this obligation and we must ensure we do our part in providing students a sufficient education.

We hope PED will adopt robust personal finance standards within the current revision to the social studies standards. We owe it to NM’s future generations.

Christopher Lewis

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