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Financial, nonprofit, schools join on financial literacy

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Redwood Credit Union, national groups trying to fill education gap

By Eric Gneckow, Business Journal Staff Reporter

NORTH BAY — At a time of historic strain on funding for schools in California, a number of local and national efforts are under way to support training in what many say is an important and often overlooked life skill for young adults — personal finance.

It's an issue that has drawn attention from the likes of the White House and California schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson — that a marked lack of money management skills helped fuel a surge in consumer debt in recent years, besieging personal finances and slowing down the nation's economic recovery.

Yet despite that high level of support for financial literacy efforts, education officials said the solution is not as simple as creating a required financial literacy curriculum in California. Mandated courses come with mandated costs — costs that not every school district can afford.

"Every time we mandate a course, it's $1 million dollars," said Nancy Miller, director of career pathways and community outreach at Santa Rosa City Schools. That district could face an $8 million cut in the next fiscal year.

In lieu of a mandated course and in an approach advocated at the state and national level, schools in the North Bay have chosen to integrate financial literacy into their academic offerings, embracing the topic while pursuing partnerships with nonprofits and financial institutions that enhance those efforts at no cost to districts.

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