Legislation that would require Michigan high school students take a personal finance course in order to graduate is headed to the governor’s desk after earning broad bipartisan support in the state legislature.
The proposal did not have an easy start. Half a year ago, the bill passed the Michigan House on a party-line vote, with every Democrat opposed. But when a revised version came up in the House again Tuesday, nearly 40 Democrats were on board. It was approved with a 94-13 vote.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Diana Farrington (R-Utica), said this issue had been a “labor of love” for much of her nearly six years in the legislature.
“I believe teaching our young adults to get out into the world, to know about things such as borrowing, savings, budgeting, managing credit and more, is very essential for them to be able to make the decisions they need to make for the rest. of their lives,” Farrington said.
The first version of her bill took the financial literacy credit requirement solely from foreign language courses, a move opposed by Democratic legislators and the Michigan Education Association, a major educational union.
After Democrats’ initial opposition in the House, Farrington said she had “great negotiations” to make changes that would bring a broader coalition on board. By the time the legislation was seen in a Senate committee it had been changed — school boards could now choose whether to transfer the half-credit requirement from math, visual arts or foreign language classes. It passed the Senate with only two Republicans opposed.
The proposal stands in stark contrast to a political climate where conversations about school curriculums have reached a fever pitch. The same day the financial literacy bill passed the legislature, a bill that would ban teachers from discussing racial or gender stereotypes spurred Democratic state senators to walk out of the committee discussing it. If it reached Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the bill would almost certainly be vetoed.
Sen. Dayna Polehanki, D-Livonia, was one of the two Democrats that left the meeting in protest. She said she was happy to have supported the financial literacy package.
“It’s not that I’m an obstructionist or my colleague and I are obstructionists. We vote yes quite often,” Polehanki said in an interview, characterizing the stereotype ban as campaign fodder. “I’m happy to vote for Republican bills that make sense, that are actually grounded in what teachers, students and parents are asking for.”
Farrington said she had a simple aim in bringing more groups to the table and revising her bill — she wanted to make sure financial literacy was taught in every school.
“I just think it was due diligence on my part to listen to their concerns and their issues,” she said. “I thought it was a great compromise and I felt comfortable doing that.”
That outreach may bode well for the bill’s fate. Though Whitmer’s spokesperson Bobby Leddy only said the legislation was being “reviewed,” he offered praise for its principles.
“Governor Whitmer believes educating Michigan’s students includes equipping them with the skills necessary for success in their everyday life,” Leddy said in a statement. “Students across the state would greatly benefit from innovative curriculum that empowers them through financial literacy and other critical life skills.”
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