Iowa legislators are considering a new requirement that Iowa high schoolers must take a course that teaches personal financial skills. Representative Tom Sands, a Republican from Columbus Junction, is also a banker. Sands says he encounters too many people who lack basic knowledge about saving or budgeting their own money.

"I deal with financial literacy everyday…and we really have a huge problem in this country with our financial illiteracy," Sands says. Bankers like Sands have gotten behind the idea of requiring a course in Iowa high schools that teaches students the basics about personal finances. But Jeff Berger of the Iowa Department of Education warns schools would find it difficult to teach such a course.

"When you start talking about course mandates in terms of units, you get into conversations about whether or not you have licensed staff to teach those things, what gets moved around in terms of time allocation," Berger says. The bill requires each high school student to earn one half credit in financial literacy to graduate.

Berger suggests including the topic in other high school courses without requiring that schools like up a whole new class on personal financial skills. Sands, the legislator, is vice president of Columbus Junction State Bank. He says Iowa bankers already volunteer in the schools to teach students about budgeting and other finance basics.

"They go into the schools and talk about the importance of saving and compounding dollars, and will speak at all different levels of the grades but that isn’t enough and an hour a year isn’t enough," Sands says. The topic was discussed yesterday (Monday) at the statehouse, but the bill to require that Iowa high schools teach course on financial literacy has not made it beyond even a subcommittee at this point.