A University of Nebraska educator challenged an "F" the state was given for its personal finance education in high schools. 

The Center for Financial Literacy at Champlain College in Vermont issued the report card. 

Nebraska was one of 11 states that got an F.

Jennifer Davidson, director of programs and community development for the Nebraska Council on Economic Education at UNL, responded. 

"The criteria they used to determine the grades is very limited," she said in an email. "It appears as if they only looked at what is mandated by the Legislature."

Nebraska, she said, allows local control of secondary education. "Each school district determines what is best for their students and surrounding community," she said. "We pride ourselves on independent thought and accountability. Additionally, most of Nebraska's schools do offer and/or require some sort of personal finance education."

The study appeared to give Nebraska no credit for efforts by organizations that work on financial literacy, such as the Nebraska Financial Education Coalition, the Nebraska Council on Economic Education, UNL's Student Money Management Center and others, Davidson said.

"A great example of what was completely missed by the study are the Personal Finance Institutes provided in 2010 and 2012," she said. Those are continuing education for teachers. Both residential Institutes were oversubscribed and concluded with a national certification test, she said, and all of the attending teachers passed the certification.

"Nebraska's teachers and schools are focused on providing outstanding financial literacy education," Davidson concluded. 

The state grades are based on financial literacy legislation summaries maintained by the National Conference of State Legislatures for the past 14 years and on reports issued by the JumpStart Coalition and the Council for Economic Education. 

John Pelletier, director of the center that did the study, acknowledged it gave the highest grades to states that require not only the offering of personal finance courses but also require students to take them and have schools test for proficiency, as well.

His state, Vermont, also is a local control state, and it got a D.

Pelletier said he starts from the perspective that 21st century life for kids in high school is going to be even more demanding of their ability to understand and manage personal finances. "They're not getting it at home," he said.

There's no way to do an analysis of every school board and what they require and don't, so measuring the state's commitment is what his center did.

"Nebraska is consistently ranked this way, not just by me," he said. "How many of your local high schools have personal finance as a graduation requirement, or require you to take a course, economics or civics, where some portion is dedicated to this topic? How many offer it as an elective?"

The fact that some schools are doing good things doesn't change the need for requiring personal finance and testing for proficiency, he said.

"If it's an elective, it means most of the people who graduate never take it," Pelletier said. "Don't pat yourself on the back ... for a small subset of your school population. ... An elective doesn't do the job."

Pelletier also called attention to his report's Footnote 5: A study by the University of Wisconsin that showed 63.8 percent of teachers felt unqualified to use their state's financial literacy standards, and 89 percent agree or strongly agree that students should take a financial literacy course or pass a test to graduate from high school. 

Reach Richard Piersol at 402-473-7241 or dpiersol@journalstar.com.