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Ohio taking big step toward ‘smart’ financial education

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Ohio is about to get smart.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed legislation on June 28 that funds Smart Ohio, a program that will bring economic and financial education to hundreds of elementary classrooms.

The bill that established the program was sponsored by State Rep. Louis Terhar, R-Green Township, and State Sen. Bill Seitz, R-Green Township. The legislation got unanimous support in House and Senate.

Smart Ohio is modeled on a similar program I started while at the University of Memphis called – you guessed it – Smart Tennessee. It has three basic components: teacher training, solid curriculum and assessment.

Smart Tennessee was started in 2006 and a decade later is still going strong, having trained thousands of teachers and reached tens of thousands of children. Since its inception, the “Smart” model has been adopted by several states, Ohio being the most recent.

There are several unique features about Smart Ohio that contribute to its effectiveness. First, it relies on a trained teacher to educate children rather than direct-to-student programming or utilizing volunteers. Smart Ohio will train 500 elementary teachers, paying them a stipend for attending a workshop on implementing the curriculum and providing student assessments.

Second, “Smart” state programs utilize curricula that focus on integrating economics and personal finance into other core academic subjects such as math and English or language arts. Smart Ohio will utilize $martPath, a digital platform developed for the Economics Center and made possible by a $1 million donation of board member Peter Alpaugh.

$martPath has animated videos, interactive exercises, and in-class activities. It is focused on elementary students because the critical thinking and decision-making skills that are the heart of economic and financial education are best introduced in the early grades.

Smart Ohio is not, of course, a panacea. A decade from now, our state will still grapple with issues of poverty, crime, and workforce development. But Smart Ohio will lay the foundation for the future.



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