Coding, personal finance courses highlighted in Michigan bills

Python, HTML, and SQL classes may soon replace Spanish, French, and German in Michigan high school schedules.

Students studying computer programming languages ​​or taking other coding courses would earn credit towards their global language degree through a invoice work its way through the state legislature.

Proponents say it would give students greater flexibility to explore a skill that could help prepare them for future jobs.

Nate Henschel, director of government affairs for the Grand Rapids Chamber, said he hopes giving students a coding option will spark interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and potentially lead to well-paying jobs.

“That’s what the economy needs,” he said. “We see a growing demand for jobs in this field. It just gives kids a choice.

Separate legislation could also reduce state language requirements. It would require high school students to take a half-credit financial literacy course. Credit for this course could be used to fulfill global demands on language, mathematics or art.

Both bills have the support of business groups who say they are interested in a more skilled workforce. But in an example of the ongoing debate over STEM versus humanities in education, they are meeting resistance from critics who fear the bills will reduce local flexibility on the curriculum and further crowding out cultural understanding in favor of a more technical education.

“Personal finance has nothing to do with world language,” said Julie Foss, public liaison for the Michigan World Language Association, which opposes the coding and personal finance bills. “It’s not that we think any of these things don’t have value, but they have no place in replacing the languages ​​of the world.”

She said if Michigan determines that students need to learn computer coding, it makes more sense for the course to meet a math or science requirement.

Michigan students can already decline one of their two required foreign language credits if they take a career and technical education course or earn more than two visual and performing arts credits. It is not known how many students use the CTE or arts courses to meet the global language requirement, but 103,000 students were enrolled in vocational and technical training programs last year.

Students can also complete global language requirements before high school. For example, a district might offer a K-8 language program for all children, which results in fluency equivalent to two years of high school courses.

The Michigan Secondary School Principals Association supports financial literacy but opposes the bill because it does not give districts enough flexibility to decide how to deliver education. For example, districts should have the ability to integrate financial literacy content into existing courses, said MASSP lobbyist Bob Kefgen.

The Michigan Department of Education opposes both bills. Legislative Liaison Sheryl Kennedy said the department supports teaching coding and financial literacy, but opposes any bill that replaces credit from one area of ​​Michigan’s merit program with another.

“A foreign language is not just about learning to speak the language,” she said. “It’s learning about a culture different from ours. Coding doesn’t do that.

Foss, who is also a French teacher, said people often think world language classes have a lot of memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules. But these courses have an “immersive environment” where “culture is at the center,” she said, and students learn communication skills that employers are looking for.

Others say that coding is also a communication skill and that programming languages ​​are as important as spoken languages.

The Grand Rapids Chamber supports both bills and has worked on the computer coding component for years, according to Henschel.

Regarding the personal finance bill, Henschel said “so many young adults are unprepared for the scrutiny of loans, credit cards and other important financial decisions” and that the bill will lead, hopefully to “better financial well-being for years to come.”

Some students are already taking financial literacy courses.

In Grand Rapids, Forest Hills High School’s personal finance course is a popular choice. Students say it teaches them how to budget money from their minimum wage jobs, understand pay stubs, open savings accounts and invest in stocks.

“This is one of the only classes in school where I can really see how it will help me in the future,” Clare Hilary Jr. said last week before the Senate Education and Readiness Committee. the career.

Her classmate Jacquelinn Festian told senators that she did not know the difference between a debit card and a credit card until she started the course. Now she knows “it’s very easy to get into debt with your credit card”.

She said every Michigan student should have the chance to learn this and other financial lessons before they graduate.

The two measures could be voted on by the entire Senate in the days or weeks to come. Both have been previously approved by the House. The Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee made small technical changes to the bills, so the House would have to vote again if the Senate approved the amended bills.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer did not say whether she would sign the bills if they reached her office. She will review bills as they move through the legislative process, spokesman Bobby Leddy said Wednesday.

Sixteen years ago, Michigan had only one statewide graduation requirement for high schools: that students take a civics course. Otherwise, districts were free to set their own requirements.

In 2006, the state passed the Michigan Merit Program, which requires a minimum of 18 credits in specified subjects. Local school districts can add to these requirements, and many do.

Ten Michigan districts require personal finance courses, according to NextGen Personal Finance, a nonprofit advocacy group pushing states to require them for all students. Banks and credit unions across the country are also working to draw attention financial literacy needs.

Their efforts succeeded in Florida, Nebraska, Ohioand Rhode Island, which recently passed laws requiring high school students to take personal finance courses. Including Michigan, 18 other states are considering similar laws.

Tracie Mauriello covers state education policy for Chalkbeat Detroit and Bridge Michigan. Join her at [email protected].

Isabel Lohman covers education for Bridge Michigan. Join her at [email protected].

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