Despite what dominates the headlines out of Washington, D.C., I’ve stayed focused on finding common sense solutions to everyday issues that actually affect the lives of those who live in our community. For example, the lack of financial courses being taught in schools is very concerning when an increasing percentage of young adults are not grasping the basic financial concepts needed for economic success. According to a 2018 FINRA Foundation study, just 17% of Americans from ages 18-34 understand basic financial literacy concepts.

We need to address the fact that the vast majority of today’s students aren’t properly taught how to balance a checkbook, open a checking account or manage their debt. If they don’t grasp these rudimentary concepts during their teenage years, how can we expect them to navigate the financial process and responsibly manage their college loans or other more complex financial situations later in life?

The good news is that our educators are more than willing to teach these concepts. More than 70% of K-12 teachers have indicated they are willing to participate in formal financial education training. Plus, a study from the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center last year showed that 90% of the nearly 800 teachers surveyed said that personal finance should be featured in a public school’s curriculum. But, only half of teachers stated that they have enough background information to teach it themselves.

Fundamentally, our students should not graduate from high school with a lack of knowledge of basic financial skills and strategies. That’s why I introduced the Financial Literacy Improvement for Professionals Act.

The primary stumbling block that prevents financial concepts from being widely taught is a lack of clarity in our laws governing how professional development funds can be used. These laws must allow educators to use this funding to get the training to teach these courses.

Under current law, teachers can use federal funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 to seek professional development opportunities. Title IV funding can also be used by local education agencies to support activities that improve well-rounded educational opportunities. My bill would simply amend and clarify the current definition to enable school districts to use the money to help teachers seek course work in financial literacy.

Specifically, the bill would provide teachers with the ability to take courses and gain skills related to personal finance, responsible borrowing, managing interest on debt, credit scores, and setting up a bank account. Our students should feel comfortable and confident in making these financial decisions, and my bill would open the door for more school districts to teach courses on financial literacy.

As a product of the North Carolina public-school system myself, I understand the value of a well-rounded education. However, we can do better for our teachers and our kids. I introduced this bill with the intention of helping our educators gain the skills they need to teach these courses to our students so that they are better prepared to go out into the world.