Patty in the News

PASCO -- When Christi Snyder goes away to college next year, she won't have to learn the hard way about staying on top of her bills and within her budget.

That's because the Career and Consumer Connections class she took at Kamiakin High School in Kennewick taught her about personal finance.

"They should add more classes like this to teach kids about the real world," said the 18-year-old senior.

That's the idea behind new legislation introduced last monthby Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. The Financial and Economic Literacy Improvement Act of 2009 would provide $250 million in grants to states each year over five years for financial literacy education.

Murray touted the legislation Monday during a stop at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

"A lot of people are asking, 'How did the country get to this?' " she said, referring to the recession.

Wall Street executives and other officials deserve blame, she said. But many Americans also have made uninformed financial choices, such as agreeing to mortgages they don't understand, Murray said.

Under the act, $125 million would be given to states each year for K-12 financial literacy education. The same amount would be provided for programs at two- and four-year colleges.

A clearinghouse also would be created to provide easy access to resources on teaching financial literacy.

The legislation is being co-sponsored by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-NY.

Educators and community leaders joined Murray in emphasizing the importance of teaching budgeting, saving and other financial concepts in school.

"We need to be able to reach all of our young people today," said Christina Brown, president and CEO of Gesa Credit Union. The credit union puts on financial education seminars and also helps students operate branches at some Tri-City schools.

Rich Cummins, CBC president, and Chris Martinson, career and technical education director for Pasco schools, also spoke at the event.

Snyder said she'll use the financial smarts she gained in school when she strikes out on her own. She'll put aside a little from each paycheck and won't "go out and blow my money on other things," she said.

Her teacher, Linda Willingham, said most students who enter her class don't even have their own checking accounts. By the end, they've learned about everything from banking to identity theft.

Willingham said she'd like to see financial literacy become a graduation requirement in the state.

"Our students are our future," she said. "Financial literacy is one way to prepare them for the future."