On Feb 21, 2019, at 11 am, I had the opportunity to attend a public hearing about potential educational policies. The public hearing made me reconsider everything I thought I knew about policymaking in the department of education. Commissioner Dr. Diana Wentzel set the tone of the hearing by quickly summarizing the different bills that will be discussed. A large portion of the bills raised was concerned with issues in public schools and classrooms- but the two bills that stood out to me focused on public school safety and introducing financial literacy to the curriculum.
The first bill, introduced by Dr. Wentzel, was S.B. NO. 852 An Act Concerning the Inclusion of Personal Financial Management in The Public-School Curriculum and the Establishment of a Personal Financial Management Pilot Program, and as the name suggests, it pushed to include financial literacy in the public-school curriculum. Dr. Wentzel was happy to report that “the department supports the spirit of this proposal and we [the department] think that this is really important learning for our young people.” The department already provides a standard curriculum in a model curriculum for financial literacy that covers topics such as banking, savings investment, financial planning, and risk management. Although the department wants to work directly related to the model curriculum, Dr. Wentzel mentioned that “they lack the physical resources to do so. Later, in the hearing, Senator McCroy shared that he believes it is important for students to be “equipped with some type of baseline knowledge of finance, how to budge and prepare for the future.” Sen. McCroy then mentioned that some school districts are at a disadvantage because they lack these types of resources. He stated that it was important to focus on making these types of policies a reality and “we’ll deal with the money later.” Even though this idea of financial literacy is something that I know is a luxury for some public schools, it would be a great addition to the curriculum. That knowledge lays the ground for students to build strong money managing skills and avoiding debt.
The conversation didn’t just stop there, another proposed bill that sprung up a conversation was H.B No. 7110 An Act Concerning Enhanced Classroom Safety and School Climate. This bill is asking the board of education to modify their safety school climate plans and disciplinary/ or behavioral situations that occur within classrooms. When asked by Rep. McCartney, Dr. Wentzel took the time to break down the basis of this bill. For starters, it doesn’t change the rights that students have but if students’ need to be removed from a classroom because they are presenting a danger to others and themselves, they will have to be removed. Dr. Wentzel states that ” if that removal lasts 90 minutes or longer that is considered a suspension and needs to be reported to the Department of Education.” Although schools may vary in the way they carry out the suspension, whether students are either in an in-school suspension with an adult present or out of school suspension, students are still missing a lesson. In this case, Sen. McCroy was quick to comment that he wants to see a different type of wording for this bill where the question needs to be: “how do we support the children in the class so that these incidents don’t occur often?” He believes that the bill needs to work towards identifying the problem and trying to fix it. Like Sen. McCroy explained, this can only be possible if children aren’t constantly being taken out of the classrooms and if there are additional resources and support systems are in place.