JOHNSTON, Iowa – The 2020 graduating class will be the first in the state to have financial literacy as a course requirement in high school.
In 2018 Governor Kim Reynolds signed financial literacy guidance for schools to follow into law.
Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said he was excited to see the bill passed last year.
“I think it is a great effort that will really improve the financial literacy skills of our young people,” Wise said.
Johnston Community Schools already teaches the subject beginning in middle school, and again when students are juniors in high school.
Johnston High School Business Teacher Lexi Shafer said high school is the perfect time for students to understand how to budget money.
“High school is the first time where they start getting jobs, getting their first job, starting to plan for college and this is where it starts,” Shafer said.
In the class students learn about budgeting a checking account, savings account, investing for the future and purchasing large items like a car.
“We try to lay a really good foundation of basic money management skills for students to go forward in their future,” Shafer said.
Johnston High School Senior Elma Ibrahimovic said the class taught her about "delayed gratification."
“I know a lot of our generation does this, where we just see something and buy it automatically. Our teacher taught us how to save up for that instead of buying it,” Ibrahimovic said.
Ibrahimovic won a “Payback” scholarship in 2018 for writing an essay about financial security and responsibility to her parents.
Ibrahimovic said the $500 scholarship is going toward her college education.
Shafer said the classes uses different activities and games to help students understand the importance of saving money for the long term.
“I think it is so important to teach high schoolers good financial literacy skills now so that they can really start creating those good habits early on that will take them into their adulthood,” Shafer said.
Johnston High School Senior Maria McCright said she uses lessons she learned about online banking and banking apps to help save money.
“I like having that financial security and having the ability to do things that are fun,” McCright said.
In the summer of 2017, Johnston High School received the Gold Standard for its standalone personal finance course by Next Gen Personal Finance.
“The feedback we get is continually positive. From students to parents, everyone is on board that this is needed in high schools,” Shafer said.