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Classes put power of money in students’ hands

by Associated Press

BATON ROUGE — Supporters of the state’s new career-track diploma law believe it can keep more high school students from dropping out while readying them for jobs in manufacturing and the petrochemical industries.

But the law also includes another difference-maker — an option that lets public school students take financial literacy as one of their required math courses.

“I really feel that this is probably the most effective thing that can be done to help people and empower them to make good decisions that would affect them for the rest of their lives,” Robert Taylor, chief executive officer of the Louisiana Bankers Association, told The Advocate (http://bit.ly/1BIicy3).

The financial crisis that sent the country into a recession was based on home loans, Taylor said. There were lenders who enticed people into taking home loans they shouldn’t have. If those home buyers understood better what they were doing, no matter what a mortgage company was selling, they would have realized the loan ultimately made no sense.

The LBA, which represents community banks, is hoping the financial literacy courses can arm students with practical knowledge they can use to avoid poor fiscal choices in the future.

It will take some time to measure the impact of the financial literacy option. The career-track diploma law passed just a few months ago. State officials and public high schools have barely begun the process of figuring out what the classes will involve and who will be allowed to teach them.

Previously, the financial literacy efforts in the state have included Louisiana Jump$tart, a coalition of organizations. Among other things, the nonprofit group trains teachers to teach financial literacy to students.

For now, financial literacy is just a portion of other classes, such as the principles in business course at Woodlawn High School in Baton Rouge.

Future entrepreneurs Tyler Johnson, Kyron Fisher and Marquis Bell, ninth-, 10th- and 11th-graders at Woodlawn, said the financial literacy section of that class is helping them prepare for their entry into the business world.

“It teaches you how to spend money when you get it . the right way,” Fisher said.

Among other things, that means following a budget, he said.

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