Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Teachers Make Sense Out Of The Dollars With Financial Literacy Program

Rhema Thompson

A financial literacy lesson like the one in Eric Fields’ Economics class probably would’ve saved most of us in the working world today a lot of unnecessary financial heartbreak.

“How many of you have a job?” he asks the class of 12th-graders, and about 20 raised hands respond.

He follows with another question,

“How many of you have a budget?” he asks, and nearly every hand drops.

But Fields doesn’t judge. He admits in his younger days, he was not so fiscally responsible.

“I was one of those people that I began to use my credit card, just for things that I didn’t have the money for right then but I wanted it,” he said. “And I just wished I would have had some knowledge as far as how to build wealth.”

It’s a message he’s now passing along to the next generation of spenders and savers in his 12th grade Economics class at Mandarin High School.

Fields has been a social studies teacher in state for the last two decades, but over the last four years, there’s been a real push by the state to get young people financially savvy early.

“If you’re illiterate financially, it’s almost like being illiterate as far as being able to read,” he said.

Like reading, financial literacy is becoming a regular part of classroom curriculum.

That’s where the Florida Council on Economic Education comes in, better known as FCEE. For years, the organization promoted early financial literacy in schools by offering teachers free professional development workshops and online resources, including K-12 curriculum guides.

Jacksonville is home to one of five FCEE centers throughout Florida.

For about four years, Fields has been attending workshops at the center located at Florida State College at Jacksonville.

A team from his class recently won the first round of the FCEE-sponsored “Finance Challenge” in which students compete in areas of earning income, financial investing and credit use. The team will be advancing on to a regional competition.

“We’re going to be doing some additional practice outside of school just to make sure they’re prepared,” Fields said.

Terry Parker High School Economics teacher and department chair Pat Curran says in today’s post-recession world, the message sticks with students.

“They realize so many people have gotten in trouble with debt, they’re more conscious of it,” he said.

Curran first got involved with FCEE back in 1985. Now, he presents at some of the workshops.

“I think it has become more important over time because the financial literacy has gotten more complex,” he said. “Technology is making financial institutions much faster because of the technology, knowledge is power. If the kids are not prepared when they walk into a bank, if they haven’t done their research, it makes it more difficult for them to make an intelligent decision.”

And despite the constant lures of hundred dollar sneakers and high-interest car loans, some high schoolers do take note.

Ramsey Fils-Aime is a student in Fields 12th grade Economy class.

“I think every 17 year old should have this class because it basically is giving you the guidelines to being successful moneywise later on in life,” he said.

You can follow Rhema Thompson on Twitter @RhemaThompson.

Rhema Thompson began her post at WJCT on a very cold day in January 2014 and left WJCT to join the team at The Florida Times Union in December 2014.