New law to ramp up high school finance lessons

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Some lawmakers, high school students and others say they're excited about a new state law designed to better equip high school students with budgeting and financial skills.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert in a Friday ceremony at the Capitol honored the measure. It will highlight for teenagers the importance of saving, he said, an important lesson from the nation's Great Recession.

The measure is needed as more employers perform credit checks on potential hires, said Sen. Pat Jones, D-Salt Lake City, who sponsored the measure during the legislative session.

"The world is changing, and we need to make sure our students are armed with the right financial literacy and skills," she said.

Students from Bingham High School in South Jordan attended the event after urging lawmakers to pass the measure this year.

They visited the Capitol during the legislative session. Jones said that helped push lawmakers to back the measure.

The law ramps up classes on finance and basic economics that have been required since 2009. To date, students often take the classes online in order to accommodate busy schedules.

Jones said the virtual lessons have mixed results, and more teacher training could strengthen the live courses and draw more students to them.

Other proponents of the bill have said that not enough people know how to balance a checkbook, make investments or decide on insurance.

The new law puts $450,000 in state money toward training teachers and related costs. It requires the State Board of Education to adopt course standards, provide resources for teachers and contract with a provider to create an online final exam.

The curriculum is required in public and charter schools, and it's open to private schools as well.

Many states require high schools to offer the courses, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Jay Rollins, a Bingham senior who is heading to Brigham Young University in fall to study engineering, said he was frustrated by the half-credit online class he took from the high school because it didn't prove as useful as he had hoped. He would've liked to have heard more about the importance of setting aside money each month for eventual retirement, he said.

"It's a waste of a class," he said of the former version. "It could be something better."

Jones, who is not seeking re-election to the Utah Senate, said Friday the passing of the bill was a "crowning moment" of her time at the Capitol.

The law goes into effect July 1.

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