Rep. Corey Paris, D-Stamford, and Rep. Tom Delnicki, R-South Windsor, shared a friendly embrace at a press conference announcing a proposal to require financial literacy education for Connecticut high school students. Erica E. Phillips / CT Mirror

Connecticut high school students will have to complete a financial literacy course in order to earn a diploma after both legislative chambers voted this month to add personal finance education to statewide curriculum requirements. The bill heads now to Gov. Ned Lamont’s desk.

Several members of the General Assembly led the push for financial literacy education, proposing nearly a dozen separate bills early in this year’s legislative session. The Education Committee moved forward with S.B. 1165, which passed the Senate 35-1 earlier this month. The House approved the bill Tuesday with a vote of 138-12.

S.B. 1165 “will ultimately set many young people across our state, at a pivotal life stage throughout their educational career, on a path to making good fiscal decisions and place them on a path for a brighter future,” Rep. Corey Paris, D-Stamford, said during the House debate Tuesday evening. Paris, who was one of the bill’s leading proponents, called it “good policy filled with good intent.”

With the governor’s signature, Connecticut will join 20 other states that have adopted financial literacy education requirements in recent years. So far this year, Minnesota, West Virginia and Indiana have passed similar legislation, according to personal finance curriculum provider Next Gen Personal Finance

Connecticut’s requirement will begin with the graduating class of 2027, who start high school this fall. The class may count as either a humanities or elective credit and won’t add to students’ existing required credits. 

The state Board of Education is tasked with providing curriculum and resources to local school boards, and the program is expected to include instruction in banking, investing, savings, the impact of using credit cards and other topics.

House members debated the bill at some length Tuesday evening, with concerns raised about the additional work it would require of both school districts and students. 

Rep. Steve Weir, R-Andover, voted against the legislation and said during the debate that the new requirement could limit choice and potentially impact a student’s grade point average.

“Beyond the fiscal impact, we have the opportunity here to affect choices at the local level and possibly student outcomes,” Weir said.

But Rep. Christie Carpino, R-Cromwell, said she believes financial literacy is important for students. “Having a high school-aged student myself, financial literacy is part of ‘adulting,’” Carpino said. “They need to understand compound interest, they need to understand their debt, and when they get their first paycheck, they need to understand the implications of the taxes that are coming out,” she said.

Ultimately, S.B. 1165 passed with broad support from both sides of the aisle. 

Rep. Kathleen McCarty, a Waterford Republican who serves as ranking member on the Education Committee, said she had opposed similar legislation in years past, but this bill offered more flexibility for school districts.

“I know we are putting a lot of extra work on our boards as far as a mandate goes, but I think there was a lot of compromise that was made on the bill,” McCarty said during the debate Tuesday evening. “Financial literacy is such an important life skill for economic empowerment.”

Erica covers economic development for CT Mirror. Before moving to Connecticut to join the staff she worked in Los Angeles for public radio’s Marketplace and, before that, for the Wall Street Journal's L.A. bureau. She grew up in Minneapolis, MN, graduated from Haverford College and earned a master’s in journalism from the University of Southern California.