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Ohio House passes bill that would add capitalism to high school financial literacy curriculum

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Ohio House passes bill that would add capitalism to high school financial literacy curriculum

Feb 12, 2024 | 4:55 am ET
By Megan Henry
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Ohio House passes bill that would add capitalism to high school financial literacy curriculum
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An Ohio bill adding capitalism to a high school financial literacy credit is one step closer to becoming law. 

The Ohio House passed Senate Bill 17 with a 66-26 vote during Wednesday’s session. Four democrats voted for SB 17 — Bride Rose Sweeney, Dani Isaacsohn, Elliot Forhan and Richard Dell’Aquila. Every senator voted for SB 17 except state Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson, D-Toledo. 

The Ohio Senate must agree to changes in the bill before it heads to Gov. Mike DeWine’s desk for his signature. 

State Sen. Steve Wilson, R-Maineville, introduced the bill last year, which lays out 10 free market capitalism concepts that would be taught. 

“One of the most important ways to prepare (students) for a successful life ahead is to make sure that they understand how money works and how that system works,” Wilson said last year during his sponsor testimony. 

The current law requires the State Board of Education to adopt standards and curriculum for financial literacy instruction, but does not clarify what must be included in the standards or model curriculum. 

The ten concepts proposed under SB 17:

  1. Raw materials, labor, and capital are privately owned. 
  2. Individuals control their own ability to work and earn wages. 
  3. Private ownership of capital may take many forms, including via a family business, a publicly traded corporation, or a bank, among others. 
  4. Market prices are the only method to inform consumers and producers about the constantly changing information about the supply and demand of goods and services. 
  5. Both sellers and buyers seek to profit in a free market transaction, and profit earned can be consumed, saved, reinvested, or dispersed to shareholders. 
  6. Wealth creation involves asset value appreciation and depreciation, voluntary exchange of equity ownership, and open and closed markets. 
  7. The free market positively correlates with entrepreneurship and innovation.  
  8. The free market may involve externalities and market failures in which the cost of certain economic activities is borne by third parties. 
  9. The free market often accords with policies like legally protected property rights, legally enforceable contracts, patent protections, and the mitigation of externalities. 
  10. Free-market societies often embrace political and personal freedoms.

“It would be up to the teacher to decide how much time to use in their classroom as they’re adding these additional concepts,” state rep Adam Bird, R-New Richmond, said during Wednesday’s session. 

As a former teacher, state rep. Sean Patrick Brennan, D-Parma, has reservations about SB 17. 

“I can attest that it’s already a very daunting task to cover all the topics thoroughly in financial literacy,” Brennan said during Wednesday’s House session. “I’ve always believed in the foot-long, foot-deep model of teaching, rather than the mile-long, inch-deep model, where students are thrown a lot of material in a short amount of time, and not given sufficient time to master it and truly put it to use in their lives.”

Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro said he doesn’t think the “overall thrust of the bill” will make a major change. 

“As a high school social studies teacher myself, I always taught about capitalism and the differences between capitalism and socialism in the classes that I taught, whether it was in history or in government or economics, so I don’t know that its going to really make make too much of a difference,” he said. “Kids are already being taught those concepts.” 

The financial literacy class can be an elective or as a substitute for a half-unit of mathematics — something former teacher and state rep. Joe Miller, D-Amherst, is not a fan of.

“In Ohio, let’s teach students less math as we move into the advanced tech economy with Intel coming in,” he said during Wednesday’s House session.

Intel is coming to Licking County, but the Wall Street Journal recently reported the timeline to finish the $20 billion project has been delayed and won’t be ready until late 2026 or 2027. 

Ohio’s current law requires teachers to have a financial literacy license in order to teach financial literacy, unless they teach social studies, family and consumer sciences, and business education.

Under SB 17, math teachers would be able to teach financial literacy. 

The bill would allow high school students to meet their financial literacy requirements by taking Advanced Placement microeconomics or macroeconomics.

“I’ve known a lot of really bright AP students over the years,” Brennan said. “They’re incredible, but they have no idea the difference between a whole life life insurance policy and a term life life insurance policy, or the various types of mortgage options available when one’s looking to buy a home.”

Follow OCJ Reporter Megan Henry on X.