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Personal finance could become required course at WDC High School

Shayne Haustveit

A Wadena-Deer Creek business teacher is proposing the school district require a one-semester course in personal finance/career exploration.

Business education teacher Shayne Haustveit addressed the school board in its April meeting with his request after seeing it in action in other school districts and seeing a need among senior high students.

The course would likely cover topics of balancing a checkbook, understanding the difference between debit and credit and avoiding debt. The career side of things would also dive into writing resumes and cover letters and practical knowledge like practicing giving a handshake and dressing for the interview.

He indicated that his experience in teaching in North Dakota was that a course like this was required statewide. That's not the case in Minnesota, but several area schools including Detroit Lakes, Blackduck, Sebeka and Underwood do require it, according to Haustveit.

"Regardless of the kids going to doctoral or post secondary, they are all going to have to be able to function and understand the basics of checkbooks, interest, debit cards, credit cards, how to find a job and identify key words in a job posting to tailor a resume to give yourself a better opportunity to getting the job."

The non-verbal communication, including the handshake and dress code, were areas that needed to be addressed, he added. He said they may even go into tax preparation depending on the student level. Haustveit suggested that the course would be most effective if available for juniors and seniors as they are likely already working and could put the knowledge to work right away.

One drawback that Haustveit pointed out was that adding a required course would take away from students' abilities to take electives. But, he noted, that it's his belief it would likely only put a dent in the number of study halls or school service that students take.

High School Principal Tyler Church also asked the board to consider the idea and how it may affect student freedom to choose electives.

"There is a lot of good things that could come from this course," Church said.

If enacted next year, this would be applied starting with the freshman class.

Superintendent Lee Westrum also felt the course would be worthwhile.

Church said he would research to find out how many students are taking a study hall now. Westrum believed that a lot likely do take a study hall.

School board member Dan Lawson noted that the handshake was something he remembers learning as well in a class called agri-business, and added that it was an important, yet simple lesson that has stuck with him. He noted that there is nothing like shaking a hand that feels like a wet noodle.