- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2001

High school seniors flunk personal finance 101, a group that promotes financial literacy reported yesterday.
Many students answering an 801-person telephone survey sponsored by the Americans for Consumer Education and Competition answered incorrectly on questions about saving, investing and taxes. The group is pushing a House bill that would give primary and secondary schools more funding to develop and implement financial education curricula.
The students' average score on a 13-question quiz was under 40 percent, said Dave Sackett, whose Republican polling firm, the Tarrance Group, conducted the survey with the Democratic research firm Lake, Snell and Perry.
One-third of the students surveyed had a savings account. But 38 percent thought savings accounts were a better way to earn interest than money market accounts or certificates of deposit.
Susan Molinari, a former member of Congress and Americans for Consumer Education and Competition's chairman, said the results show a clear need for better personal finance education, both at home and in schools.
"The results suggest that there is a significant deficiency," she said.
"Personal finance lessons are best learned when both parents and educators make them a priority."
Mrs. Molinari spoke at Woodrow Wilson High School in Northwest, one of the few schools in the District of Columbia to have a formal financial education curriculum.
The school has an Academy of Finance, and students who complete financial course work have a special ceremony upon graduation.
"I like money, and I wanted to learn more about how to manage my money," said Brandon Crowder, a Wilson senior. He added the course taught him to be cautious about getting a credit card when he goes to college next year.
Tiffany Starks, another college-bound senior, said the course will "help plan for my future." Each student is required to develop a financial plan through death, including estate planning, said academy director Jeff Schultz.
Mrs. Molinari said such curricula can be offered as separate courses or incorporated into existing classes such as math.
The House bill would grant at least $500,000 to states that submit education plans to Congress, subject to its approval. The measure also would provide a clearinghouse of courses and instructional materials for schools to use.
The bill was introduced in January by Reps. David Dreier, California Republican, and Earl Pomeroy, North Dakota Democrat. They sponsored a version of the measure last year, but the bill to which it was attached was killed.
Mr. Dreier said he is confident of its chances this year.
"My hope is that we'll have this attached to an education bill," he said. As chairman of the Rules Committee, he should be able to do just that, he added.
"Tax cuts and other issues are going to be of paramount importance, but that doesn't diminish that we need to get this through," Mr. Dreier said.
He also said the bill was another way to attack the problem of rampant bankruptcy, which is being addressed in a separate measure in Congress.
"The key to reforming bankruptcy is to provide ways to avoid it," he said.
Financial-education groups, such as the National Endowment for Financial Education, have thrown their support behind the bill.
"Often state departments of education want to add some additional material to their curriculum. When they want to do that, they need dollars to do it," said Elizabeth Schiever, director of the group's high school financial planning program.

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