CFCU Supports Bill Seeking to Boost Financial Literacy Ed

US Rep Mike Gallagher R-WI speaking about financial literacy at Community First Credit Union's Career Exploration and Financial Literacy Center.“Talk about music to our ears – this is something that we have deeply-held beliefs around,” said Community First President/CEO Cathie Tierney during a recent presentation by U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), a co-sponsor of the Student Empowerment and Financial Literacy Act reintroduced during Financial Literacy Month in late April.

“As we talk about basic needs – financial literacy is a critical basic need,” said Tierney, speaking from the Community First Career Exploration & Financial Literacy Center, a partnership between Junior Achievement of Wisconsin, Community First and Fox Valley Technical College (the first facility of its kind on a U.S. college campus). The regional facility serves hundreds of students from Northeast Wisconsin and beyond annually.

The bipartisan bill would create a grant program within the Department of Education to allow schools to pursue partnerships with qualified entities like nonprofits, credit unions, community lenders and banks to incorporate financial literacy education into their curriculums.

Tierney noted how credit unions like Community First “have worked with folks for many years and can see the impact of people who haven’t had the exposure to understand how to make wise financial decisions.

Cathie Tierney (CFCU President/CEO), Deb Lowe (CFCU retiree/volunteer), and Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI)
speaking with a student about the financial literacy bill.
Cathie Tierney (CFCU President/CEO), Deb Lowe (CFCU retiree/volunteer), and Congressman Mike Gallagher (R-WI)
speaking with a student about the financial literacy bill.

“Junior Achievement is an amazing partner because they believe in education, not only financial literacy but helping all of us – our children in particular – understand what it’s like to be a citizen of the world,” said Tierney. “They learn about communities, government and how they can be part of making the world work.”

Tierney said there is a big opportunity to teach key concepts to grade school children, like wants versus needs or the importance of saving, spending, investing, protecting and sharing. It’s something Community First has done for several years at Appleton’s Badger Elementary School. These lessons are now getting expanded focus with Junior Achievement programs like JA BizTown designed for students in Grade 4.

“If we can get them at that age and grow them over time, I think we’re going to make really amazing progress,” said Tierney. The financial literacy concepts are hugely important. They go home and they’re excited and talk to their parents about it.”

Multiple studies show that “it’s clear that kids who know how to manage their money are better set up for a lifetime of success,” Gallagher said. “The goal of this bipartisan bill is simple: it’s to provide K-12 students of all backgrounds across the entire country with access to comprehensive financial literacy education.”

This bill would give students and schools – particularly in low-income communities – the resources to encourage development of out-of-the-box partnerships around financial literacy education that benefit students on their journey to becoming independent and responsible young adults.

"Wisconsin credit unions’ longstanding tradition of providing meaningful financial education stems from their mission to provide opportunities for members to improve their economic and social conditions,” said Wisconsin Credit Union League President and CEO Brett Thompson. “The Student Empowerment and Financial Literacy Act provides schools with resources to achieve our shared goal of creating opportunity for today’s youth and strengthening their financial futures.”

Gallagher’s co-sponsor on the bill, Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), said, “It is critical for young schoolchildren to learn the building blocks of how to budget, save, borrow and invest at an early age,” especially in what she called “underbanked communities that need it most.” Two additional co-sponsors have signed on to the bill, which has been referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

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