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    Ballot measure to require personal finance class in high schools gathers steam
    • March 13, 2024

    A campaign to make personal finance a California high school graduation requirement submitted nearly 900,000 signatures this week to qualify a statewide ballot measure for the November election.

    The group, Californians for Financial Education, is led by Palo Alto entrepreneur Tim Ranzetta, who says he is fed up after two decades of failed legislative efforts to incorporate money management into the state’s school curricula.

    “Less than 1% of California high school students are guaranteed to take this course and that number nationally is 53%,” he said on Tuesday, March 12 in an interview. “I feel that this is something California students urgently deserve as we lead the nation in so many ways, and yet when it comes personal finance education we’ve fallen behind. This ballot initiative is an opportunity to level the playing field for all Californians.”

    Ranzetta poured $7 million of his money into the signature-gathering effort and is now waiting for county registrars to verify at least 546,651 valid signatures for the measure to make it onto the November ballot. The campaign has the support of Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, State Controller Malia Cohen and State Treasurer Fiona Ma.

    If approved by voters, the measure would require all school districts to offer a high school personal finance course in the 2026-27 school year and make the class a graduation requirement by the 2029-30 school year. The envisioned course would cover topics like understanding how to finance college, developing a personal budget, building credit, watching out for predatory loans, making investments and avoiding scams.

    Ranzetta is the co-founder of nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance, which has led advocacy efforts to make personal finance courses a requirement in states across the country and helped train thousands of educators to teach the courses.

    Currently 25 states have some form of a personal finance requirement, 17 of which were introduced in the last two to three years, he said.

    Now, Ranzetta is honing his focus on his home state of California.

    “There’s compelling research behind the impact that this class has on better credit behaviors, less likelihood to take out high interest loans, increased likelihood to begin investing at a young age and make better decisions about how to pay for college,” he said. “There is tremendous benefit not only to individuals, but to their families, their communities and frankly the California state economy.”

    Legislators have tried to enact such a requirement over the last two decades, but all of those efforts have failed to make it to the governor’s desk.

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    Most recently, a 2023 bill to incorporate financial literacy into the K-12 curriculum died in the state Senate Education Committee. Then in February, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, introduced Assembly Bill 2927, which would require California high schools to provide a one-semester, stand-alone course in personal finance to all students as a graduation requirement.

    Ranzetta said he’s fully on board with AB 2927, but also wants to move forward with the ballot measure in case the bill flounders.

    “We want to guarantee that every high school student gets a personal finance course, and whether that happens through the legislature or through the initiative, we just want to make sure that it happens,” he said.

    Veteran Sacramento lobbyist Chris Micheli believes the ballot measure has a strong shot at passing, especially since no formal opposition movement has formed.

    “There are a number of prominent groups, including the California Credit Union League, that support the ballot measure,” said Micheli. “I would envision the majority of voters would be supportive of it, recognizing the value of having high school graduates at least somewhat familiar with personal finance.”

    Micheli anticipates the county registrars will complete the signature verification process by the end of May or beginning of June at the latest. If a state law requiring personal finance were to pass in Sacramento, Californians for Financial Education has until June 27 to pull the measure from the ballot.

    ​ Orange County Register