A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by state Sen. Mattie Daughtry, D-Brunswick, is promoting a bill that would require Maine high school students to take a personal finance course.

Daughtry’s bill, L.D. 1284, would mandate high schoolers take a semester-long, standalone, personal finance literacy class in order to graduate.

“Too often, Maine youth and young adults are not given the personal finance education they need to make well-informed decisions that will impact their lives,” Daughtry said. “Without a statewide guarantee, incomplete enrollment in a personal finance education course leads to widening opportunity gaps between students who are well prepared for post-graduation financial realities and those who are left to figure things out on their own — sometimes with life-altering consequences.”

Currently, the Maine Department of Education requires personal finance be taught alongside history, government and civics during two years of social studies. That doesn’t go far enough, according to state Sen. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, who co-sponsored the bill. He said the time teachers spend on personal finance varies wildly.

“Quality of education should not be dependent on ZIP code,” Pouliot said.

He cited data released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York this week that showed consumer debt in America exceeded $17 trillion for the first time.


“People are being crippled by debt in this country,” Pouliot said. “(This bill) can help on a practical level more than the Pythagorean theorem.”

The Maine Education Association union, the Maine School Boards Association and the Maine Principals’ Association oppose L.D. 1284, arguing personal finance is already being taught in schools and that the bill would remove local control from school districts.

“It seems unnecessary to require an additional course, and it could prove challenging for many schools and many students to incorporate this into their schedules,” Maine Education Association President Grace Leavitt testified during a public hearing on the bill last week. “It would likely mean that students would have to forego another option in order to add this course when the matter is already addressed in their social studies classes.”

Holly Blair, executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, added, “Maine is a local control state and it is up to the local school boards to determine what standards are necessary for students to demonstrate.”

The nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance, which provides a free financial literacy curriculum for teachers across the country, including some in Maine, supports Daughtry’s bill. Spokesperson Christian Sherrill said the nonprofit conducted a poll in April that found 83% of Maine voters agree personal finance should be a standalone graduation requirement for high schoolers.

“There’s unequal access to financial education in Maine,” Sherrill said. “Trying to shoehorn a little bit of personal finance here, a little bit of personal finance there, is cumbersome for teachers to do. Let’s give teachers the breathing room they need to teach all the skills in personal finance.”


He said Maine would be the 20th state to have personal finance as a high school graduation requirement if Daughtry’s bill passes. In New England, New Hampshire and Rhode Island have the requirement, while Connecticut lawmakers are currently reviewing similar legislation.

Daughtry said she has heard from teachers across the state who support her bill and say the current system isn’t effective.

“This is just asking for a slightly stronger requirement,” she said.

“I’ve heard from many teachers who would love to do this and teach this,” Pouliot said.

The Legislature’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee will review the bill Tuesday, May 23. The bill is also co-sponsored by Democratic state Sens. David LaFountain, Tim Nangle and Joe Rafferty; Democratic state Rep. Edward Crockett; and Republican state Rep. David Woodsome.

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