Finance, wellness mandated in schools

Valley News Correspondent 
Published: 7/29/2022 3:34:51 PM

LEBANON — New state legislation will require New Hampshire schools to teach personal finance literacy and wellness education, including topics such as sexual abuse prevention and understanding child abuse, starting in the 2023-24 school year. 

Two education bills, signed by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu in June, direct the New Hampshire Department of Education to develop new curriculum guidelines for a number of content areas, including social studies, music, health and physical education. 

One bill, HB 1263, will make personal finance literacy a requirement in school curricula. 

Rep. Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill, chairman of the House Education Committee, said that too many New Hampshire students are graduating without a basic understanding of essential personal finances, from budgeting to balancing a checkbook. 

“Many of us in the Legislature have been pushing for [this] for years,” Ladd told the Valley News

Ladd, a former school administrator, said he would like to see personal finance taught throughout a student’s education. Ladd recalled a curriculum developed in the 1970s that introduced 4th-grade students to basic budgeting.

“A lot of times our kids don’t have an awareness that the money to buy the things they want is limited,” Ladd said. 

HB 1263 also sets new curriculum requirements for health and physical education. In addition to requiring physical education curriculum to include “the importance of exercise,” schools must also provide wellness education, covering subjects that include the effects of alcohol and other drugs; sexually transmitted diseases; understanding child abuse; and sexual violence prevention. 

Deborah Mozden, director of the Turning Point Network, a violence prevention organization based in Claremont, praised the bill, which received strong support from violence prevention groups across the state. 

“This decision makes significant strides in New Hampshire’s attention to sexual abuse prevention,” Mozden said. “To not provide education in something so injurious to one’s health and mental well-being as sexual abuse just did not make sense.” 

Turning Point currently provides sexual abuse prevention education to more than half the schools in Sullivan County, primarily in grades 2 through 12, Mozden said. But this bill’s passage will ensure that all New Hampshire students will receive this critical education. 

“When youth learn what abuse is and that they can set personal boundaries, they become more aware and can protect themselves from sexual violence, they know how to alert an adult they trust and how to seek help,” Mozden said. 

Mozden noted that 41% of sexual assaults of females and 69% of sexual assaults of males occur before the victim’s 18th birthday. In addition, 59% of males who reported being sexual assaulted said the incident occurred before the age of 13.

State Rep. Linda Tanner, D-Georges Mills, a co-sponsor of HB 1263, said the wellness and personal finance requirements were not part of the original bill. 

Initially, the proposed bill specifically focused on physical education, and aimed for schools to stress the importance of regular exercise to a student’s health, Tanner explained. 

“Being a former physical education teacher, I agreed  with the bill’s basic premise, so that students learn appropriate exercises and activities to maintain their health,” Tanner said.

But the bill evolved while being reviewed in the Education Committee, according to Tanner, as legislators added other wants to the underlying bill. 

Legislators sometimes call these bills “Christmas trees, where everyone puts their favorite bulb on them,” Tanner said. 

Tanner, who taught in the Kearsarge School District for 35 years, said she worries about lawmakers inserting too many specifics into their bills, such as implementation deadlines and course content, which can hinder a teacher’s creativity and instruction.   

“We have a tendency to overregulate,” Tanner said. “At this point schools are overburdened with regulations and legislative prescriptions regarding how they should teach.” 

According to Ladd, members of the Education Committee felt the bill needed to be broadened to address other areas of the state’s education system, such as the lack of competencies for social studies.

“What came out of committee was a bipartisan bill that really strengthens all the areas that we were talking about,” Ladd said. 

HB 1671, a related education bill sponsored by Ladd, directs the Department of Education to develop state-approved competencies for social studies and music.

Competencies are a collection of individual objectives that describe what knowledge, skills or concepts should be targeted in the course curriculum. Competencies also provide a framework for educators and administrators to evaluate the effectiveness of their planning, instruction and assessments. 

New Hampshire currently has state-approved standards or competencies only for language arts, math, science and the visual arts. Individual school districts may design their own competencies for their social studies or music curricula, though the state currently has no framework to evaluate school programs in their content areas. 

HB 1671 states that New Hampshire’s social studies curriculum should include “civics, government, economics, geography, history, and Holocaust and genocide education.”

The bill does not specify content requirements for the music curriculum. 

Amanda Isabelle, superintendent of the Mascoma Valley Regional School District, said that school districts are still waiting for the Department of Education to release the new curriculum frameworks for these content areas. 

These types of changes, Isabelle noted, are nothing new to schools. 

“(Our school district) is constantly adjusting to changes,” Isabelle said. “We review our curriculum, update it as it needs to be updated and we make sure that we are staying in compliance. 

Mascoma High School already provides a full year of health education and has personal finance units embedded into its math program, which the new legislation states is an allowable approach. 

Patrick Adrian can be reached at pfadrian25@gmail.com.




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