Financial Literacy Equals Freedom: Your School Business Office Can Help Financial Literacy Equals Freedom: Your School Business Office Can Help

Financial Literacy Equals Freedom: Your School Business Office Can Help

Erin Werra Erin Werra Edtech Thought Leader
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Just four in seven Americans are financially literate. Now more than ever, we can pitch in together to expand that number and change lives.

School business leaders care deeply about student success, and their work offers a unique perspective for students to learn one of the most important (and, as they might say, the most slept on) skills for the real world: financial literacy. 

Here are a few seeds of ideas folks in the school business office can plant in their districts to make financial literacy more accessible without adding too much to already overflowing to-do lists.


Budget transparency

One of the cornerstones of the school business office is the district budget: building it, forecasting the years on the horizon, and communicating that information to the community. It’s no easy feat! 

Let that hard work shine and get students involved alongside community members. Introduce students to the process and invite them to create ways to share school budget info. Data visualization provides a great way to connect any audience with dense information. (One caveat: students should only have access to public-facing info ready to release to the community. Fraud prevention comes first.)

At first glance, it may feel a little strange to add this “extra” step to budget building, but the benefits of outsourcing a project like this can add up quickly. Not only do students feel closer to the school finance process, but community members can connect with the information faster. Invite (or continue to invite) students, families, and the community to budget meetings and display the results of student-led projects. 


Curriculum 🤝 School business office

The great news is that between 2018 and 2020 the number of schools requiring students to take a personal finance course increased by 24%

The district admin team just got a little cozier as SBO and curriculum join forces to engage students in financial literacy. While these two departments are full of busy people with specific (and largely separate) goals, there’s no reason they can’t work together to ensure students have the financial literacy skills they need. 

Curriculum pros know the paths students must take in classrooms to become well-rounded graduates. The opportunity to include experiences out of the classroom for hands-on learning may be the trick to solidifying these concepts.

The benefits from learning financial literacy skills don’t end with students. Most students take these lessons home to their families, siblings, and to create a more fruitful future of their own. Over half of Americans cannot maintain a $1,000 emergency savings, and 7.1 million (a little over 5%) are “unbanked,” meaning they have no checking or savings accounts. 80% of teenagers don’t have a bank account. How much might that change if they were taught skills their parents missed out on?


Work study

For students who are ahead of the game and already know they’ll pursue finance, accounting, or other business support functions, work with the proper channels to create opportunities to put students to work. Even if those roles don’t exist in the school business office in your district, use your community contacts for good. Student apprenticeship programs match students with the real-world experience and mentors they need to jump-start a career. As well, if community influencers may be able to stop by the school or even record a lecture on their financial literacy expertise.

Consider only students who have proven themselves responsible and prudent, with a strong grasp of confidentiality. The list may be longer than you think—after all, one district was able to not only fill a whole course roster of trustworthy student IT workers, they have a waiting list as well.

Financial literacy can be improved—in fact, today’s unbanked population is the lowest it’s ever been. Financial literacy means kids are more likely to pursue college and technical school, families are more likely to meet their goals (like becoming homeowners), and generational wealth has a fighting chance. Fewer folks fall prey to financial scams. Matching students to opportunities to interact and flex their financial literacy muscles can only help them gain experience they’ll use forever. At the same time, advocating for mandatory financial literacy courses can transform the entire student population’s opportunities. What can your school business office do to help?

Follow-up resource: Literacy matters

The top literacies continue to evolve. 


Erin Werra Erin Werra Edtech Thought Leader
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