LEBANON — New state legislation will require New Hampshire schools to teach personal finance and wellness education, including topics such as preventing sexual abuse and understanding child abuse, to from 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.
A bill, HB 1263, will make knowledge of personal finance a requirement in school curricula.
Rep. Rick Ladd, R-Haverhill, chairman of the House Education Committee, said too many New Hampshire students graduate without a basic understanding of essential personal finance, from budgeting to balancing a checkbook.
“Many of us in the Legislative Assembly have lobbied for [this] for years,” Ladd told the Valley News.
Ladd, a former school administrator, said he would like personal finance to be taught throughout a student’s schooling. Ladd recalled a program developed in the 1970s that introduced 4th graders to basic budgeting.
“A lot of times our kids don’t know that money to buy the things they want is limited,” Ladd said.
HB 1263 also establishes new curriculum requirements for health and physical education. In addition to requiring the physical education curriculum to include “the importance of exercise,” schools must also provide wellness education, covering topics that include the effects of alcohol and other drugs; sexually transmitted diseases; understanding child abuse; and the prevention of sexual violence.
Deborah Mozden, director of the Turning Point Network, a Claremont-based violence prevention organization, welcomed the bill, which has received strong support from violence prevention groups across the state.
“This decision makes significant progress in New Hampshire’s attention to sexual abuse prevention,” Mozden said. “To not provide education on something as detrimental to health and mental well-being as sexual abuse just doesn’t make sense.”
Turning Point currently offers sexual abuse prevention education in more than half of Sullivan County schools, primarily in grades 2 through 12, Mozden said. But passing this bill will ensure that all New Hampshire students will receive this essential education.
“When young people learn about violence and can set personal boundaries, they become more aware of and can protect themselves from sexual violence, they know how to alert an adult they trust and how to ask for help. ‘help,” Mozden said.
Mozden noted that 41% of female sexual assaults and 69% of male sexual assaults occur before the victim’s 18th birthday. Additionally, 59% of men who reported being sexually assaulted said the incident happened before the age of 13.
State Rep. Linda Tanner, D-Georges Mills, co-sponsor of HB 1263, said welfare and personal finance requirements were not part of the original bill.
Initially, the proposed bill focused specifically on physical education and was intended to have schools emphasize the importance of regular exercise to a student’s health, Tanner explained.
“Being a former physical education teacher, I agreed with the basic premise of the bill, that students learn proper exercises and activities to maintain their health,” Tanner said.
But the bill evolved while being considered by the Education Committee, according to Tanner, as lawmakers added other wishes to the underlying bill.
Lawmakers sometimes call these bills “Christmas trees, where everyone puts their favorite light bulb in them,” Tanner said.
Tanner, who taught in the Kearsarge School District for 35 years, said she worries lawmakers are stuffing too much detail into their bills, such as implementation deadlines and content. course, which can hamper a teacher’s creativity and teaching.
“We tend to overregulate,” Tanner said. “At this point, schools are overloaded with regulations and legislative prescriptions about how they should teach.”
According to Ladd, members of the education committee felt the bill needed to be expanded to address other areas of the state’s education system, such as the lack of social studies skills.
“What came out of the 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 skills for social studies and music.
Competencies are a set of individual objectives that describe what knowledge, skills or concepts should be targeted in the course curriculum. The competencies also provide a framework for educators and administrators to assess the effectiveness of their planning, teaching, and assessments.
New Hampshire currently has state-approved standards or competencies only for language arts, math, science, and visual arts. Individual school districts may design their own competencies for their social studies or music programs, although the state currently has no framework for evaluating school programs in their content areas.
HB 1671 states that New Hampshire’s social studies curriculum should include “civics, government, economics, geography, history, and teaching about the Holocaust and genocide.”
The bill does not specify content requirements for the music program.
Amanda Isabelle, superintendent of the Mascoma Valley Regional School District, said 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 not new to schools.
“(Our school district) is constantly adapting to change,” Isabelle said. “We review our program, update it as it needs to be updated and make sure we stay compliant.
Mascoma High School already offers a full year of health education and has personal finance units built into its math curriculum, which under new legislation is a permitted approach.
Patrick Adrian can be contacted at email@example.com.