State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond recently announced $1.4 million in financial literacy grants in partnership with Next Gen Personal Finance, a nonprofit promoting the implementation of personal finance courses in high schools across the United States.

The grants will provide professional development to high school teachers across California to start personal finance electives at their schools. The first 1,000 teachers to complete 20 hours of professional development coursework through Next Gen Personal Finance will earn a $500 stipend.

The grant money will also cover half of the costs for personal finance specialists hired in five school districts across the state: Los Angeles Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, Fresno Unified School District, Long Beach Unified School District and San Francisco Unified School District.

Tim Ranzetta, co-founder of Next Gen Personal Finance, said the specialists will bring a focus to personal finance curriculum development and implementation in the school districts.

The organization has promoted a nationwide mission to provide personal finance courses to all high schoolers across the U.S. by 2030.

California lags nation in personal finance classes

Ranzetta said that research done by Next Gen Personal Finance shows that while 70 percent of high schoolers nationwide have access to personal finance classes, only 26 percent in California do. At the same time, the organization’s survey of California voters showed that 85 percent of those surveyed believed personal finance coursework should be guaranteed to students.

Thurmond and Ranzetta both agreed that personal finance education can bring better financial decisions and less debt to students as they graduate. Ranzetta also said that he noticed courses he taught benefitting not only the students’ finances, but also those of their parents and family members.

“There’s a national movement in financial education happening, and we can’t afford for California children to fall behind.”

Tony Thurmond, state Superintendent of Public Instruction

“There’s a national movement in financial education happening, and we can’t afford for California children to fall behind,” Thurmond said. “We must ensure that all our graduates are equipped with important skills they need to thrive, and financial education is a key tool that can be used in all stages of a student’s life.”

Next Gen Personal Finance’s professional development, which is free, provides educators with live instruction certification courses, on-demand hour-long modules on current events in personal finance and virtual professional development to collaborate with other teachers.

‘Free is what it had to be’

Ranzetta said that the goal of reaching all students with financial literacy education begins with helping teachers learn more about the topic.

“If we wanted it to reach all students, free is what it had to be,” Ranzetta said.

The co-founder said that the organization’s coursework has already been used by over 64,000 educators nationwide, including 4,200 teachers in California.

Malia Vella, the state’s deputy superintendent, said teachers can begin logging professional development hours right away to qualify for the stipend by going to the Next Gen Personal Finance website to complete coursework.

While a personal finance course is not yet required across California, Thurmond said to “stay tuned,” as he expects the initiative to gain steam. The superintendent is glad that the state has allocated resources to help districts to implement personal finance education prior to the consideration of a mandated requirement.

The grants come alongside a $3.5 billion Arts, Music, and Instructional Materials Discretionary Block Grant in the 2022-23 state budget to go to county offices of education, school districts, charter schools, and state special schools for hearing- or vision-impaired students.

Thurmond hopes that districts will continue to focus on personal finance coursework as further details are outlined in coming weeks about the block grant.

“We hope that you’ll get excited and start planning,” Thurmond said.