Arizona high school students may be required to learn more about personal finances after a bill with bipartisan support in the Arizona's senate and house has now reached the governor’s desk.
The bill was introduced by Sen. Sylvia Allen, R-Snowflake, who chairs the education committee and has been pushed for by state Treasurer Kimberly Yee.
Yee, who was in Flagstaff Wednesday where she was the keynote speaker at a county treasurers conference, said one of her goals while she is in the office of treasurer is to improve the personal finances of Arizonans.
The position of treasurer is tasked with managing investments for state agencies and for counties that participate, as well as directing the state’s banking services.
Although the personal finances of those living in the state are not a responsibility of the state treasurer, Yee said she concerned by statistics that say one in eight millennials, aged 18 to 35, have debts in collections.
And Yee said millennial women are particularly affected by this.
“Nearly 40% of [young women] simply say they don’t pay their bills on time and they will go out and get a high interest loan just to take out emergency funds and so some of those decisions might be different if they had just a basic understanding of finance management in their schools,” Yee said.
Yee said she believes education is the best way to address issues like people taking out high interest loans, especially now that she is state treasurer and cannot legislate, as opposed to other means of ways of addressing the issue like regulating the business offering such loans.
“From a consumer standpoint you want to protect the consumer, at the same time you don’t want to regulate the private business sector,” Yee said.
Arizona high school students are already required to take at least one class in economics, but the bill would require at least half of a credit in that economics class be devoted to financial literacy and personal financial management.
At the moment, classes that include financial literacy are often electives so many students never learn those skills, Yee said.
“Even from the earliest grades, kids can understand that savings actually can get you more,” Yee said. “I go in and talk to these kids. They can understand those simple concepts but if we miss that, they graduate and they go out into the world and they’re in debt.”
Yee issued a proclamation in support of the bill when it was still before the Arizona legislature and declared April as Financial Literacy Month in Arizona.
Should the bill be signed by the Gov. Doug Ducey, local school districts will still be able to determine how the subject is taught and for how long.
Update, April 15:
The governor has since signed the bill into law.