BY: SENATOR LOU TERHAR, Ohio Senate, District 8
The low level of financial literacy in Ohio (and nationwide) exacerbated the effects of the Great Recession. Ohio is ranked fourth worst in financial literacy of the 50 states, has the sixth highest proportion of college graduate student loan debt and ranks 33rd in average per capita defined contribution retirement funds balance, at just $27,000.
Ohio House Bill 391, passed in 2016 in the 131st General Assembly, was an effort to improve financial literacy in Ohio. The bill provided for $318,000 for Smart Ohio, a program supporting curriculum, teacher stipends and student assessments to deliver professional development to Ohio teachers in grades 1-6, created and delivered primarily by the Economics Center for Education and Research of the University of Cincinnati. An initial pilot project, which provided teachers with training in a solid and proven system, resulted in major gains in the financial literacy of children. The General Assembly was so impressed with the program’s results that continued funding for Smart Ohio was approved by both Houses even in very difficult budget negotiations.
In Smart Ohio’s first year, 500 teachers were trained, impacting approximately 12,500 students. By 2021, it will reach 75,000 students at a cost of $8.48 per student. The continued funding will increase the impact on Ohio student financial literacy capabilities, at a lower per student basis, ensuring that as many students as possible can make mature, informed financial choices that will allow them to prosper in a free market. The legislature’s support of this statewide program reflects a belief that the future of our state lies in the economic and financial literacy of our students. We are proud to support our future leaders in their development of good decision-making skills.
This op-ed piece was published in the Council for Economic Education’s 2018 Survey of the States.