Financial literacy

15 Sep Schools stress the importance of financial literacy

The Beatles sang, “Give me money, that’s what I want.” This may beg the question, “Where does the money go?” For Katie Decker, insofar as Clark County School District (CCSD) students are concerned, the answer lies in the realm of financial literacy.

Decker is the principal of Walter Bracken, Walter V. Long and Howard Hollingsworth STEAM Academies. In a recent presentation to the Board of School Trustees, Decker said financial literacy “must be embedded in what kids are learning in elementary school.”

Financial literacy, said Decker, is about helping children understand wants versus needs and the importance of saving money. At the three schools helmed by Decker, children learn about money in practical, hands-on ways. For example, each school has an on-campus Piggy Bank. Students are encouraged to save their coins and deposit them into individual piggy banks throughout the school year. They are rewarded for participating regardless of the size of their deposits.

Students at Decker’s schools also learn about money through programs offered by Junior Achievement (JA), such as “JA in a Day.” In this program, local business partners spend a day at an elementary school and follow the JA curriculum to teach financial literacy concepts to children. Decker said, “Our students remember those lessons for years to come.”

The ultimate JA experience, said Decker, is BizTown, which is offered in San Diego and Phoenix. Decker’s fifth-grade students get the chance to spend a day at BizTown every year as a culminating elementary school activity. The BizTown curriculum contains 13 required project-based lessons aligned with the Nevada Academic Content Standards. Students learn about career and job choices related to personal interest, skills, knowledge and education. Decker has high praise for BizTown, saying its curriculum gives children a “well-rounded financial literacy education.”

Additionally, Andson Money offers monthly financial literacy lessons at Bracken, Long and Hollingsworth STEAM Academies. Decker said the lessons reinforce the concept of wants and needs with regard to money.

Throughout CCSD, financial literacy principles can be found in areas including social studies and mathematics. In high school social studies classes, students learn about economic decision-making, the purpose of credit reports, career paths relating to skills and wages, financial plans and economics. In the mathematics curriculum, topics include money management, risk management, financial planning, banking and consumer credit. Thirteen CCSD high schools offer elective courses that include financial literacy.

Decker said children need to learn at an early age that there is a big difference between wants and needs when it comes to money. The 27-year CCSD veteran said children can be told about these things, but it’s best to teach them good habits. “We tell our students that they don’t know what their future needs will be, so if they don’t absolutely need something, it is better to put their money in the bank and let it make money.”