Board of Public Ed offers support of financial literacy, civics requirement

Jan. 28—The Montana Board of Public Education has given their vocal support for a proposal to add financial literacy and civics to graduation requirements for Montana high school students.

The board's support came shortly after Gov. Greg Gianforte's proposal to make the classes requisites for graduation at the beginning of January. State Superintendent Elsie Arntzen said that her office has been looking into these requirements for nearly two years and commended the governor for recognizing the efforts.

According to the Office of Public Instruction, the additions would count as half of a unit within the preexisting 20-unit requirement required to graduate, and are flexible requirements that are determined at a local level through math, social studies or career technical equipment.

"There has been little to no opposition," Arntzen told the Inter Lake, as she expects a vote of support when the Board officially meets and votes to adopt the revised rules during the March 9-10, 2023 meeting.

Arntzen commended the Montana Board of Public Education for recognizing the importance of financial literacy and civics in preparing students for the future.

"Financial literacy classes give our students the tools necessary for personal success beyond the classroom," Arntzen said. "Civics education prepares our students to be active participants in government as they become the next generation of leaders in our great state and our nation."

Cal Ketchum, Flathead County Superintendent, previously told the Inter Lake that he personally would advocate for a general math or finance class so students can learn the basics before graduation.

Montana legislators are also looking to bring legislation dealing with required courses for high school graduates. Rep. Braxton Mitchell, R-Columbia Falls, has been in contact with Arntzen about carrying legislation to require financial literacy courses. While the bill has yet to be introduced, it would create guidelines for schools across the state.

The Board of Public Education does have legislative power, according to Arntzen, so if they vote for the requirements they will be implemented regardless of carried legislation. While many schools across the state already teach civics and economics, these efforts will codify the curriculum.

"We want to give kids opportunities in the next stage of their lives," Arntzen said.

Of the 173 Montana high schools, all but 29 currently offer at least one course that integrates financial literacy, according to the OPI. The rules revision would ensure schools across the state are teaching financial literacy or economics, as well as civics or government.

Reporter Kate Heston can be reached at