Economic and Personal Finance Education in Schools -- Key for Solving Many of Our Nation's Challenges
We provide the education that equips Prek-12 students to thrive and succeed in our free-market economy.
I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
I am over 18 years of age
My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States
Where are you making a difference?
State of Arkansas, all cities
Focus Areas (required)
Business & Social Enterprise
Children & Youth
Development & Prosperity
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Scaling (expanding impact to many new places or in many new ways)
Website or social media URL(s) (optional)
1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.
In the 1960s, fear of communism was so widespread it bordered on hysteria, yet few Americans knew what communism was, exactly, or how their own, free-market economic system worked. Compare that to today’s heated exchanges about free trade, tariffs, trade barriers, etc., which are marked by ignorance about the issues. Economics Arkansas was founded in 1962 based on the understanding that a citizenry well versed in economics, personal finance and entrepreneurship is key for protecting individual liberties and resisting populist rhetoric. Its mission is as relevant today as 50+ years ago.
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Too many Americans lack crucial 21st century survival skills. They lack marketable job skills, money skills and sound decision-making skills. Consequently, many experience poverty, disenfranchisement and marginalization. Enabling more Americans to live stable, healthy and prosperous will benefit us all.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Anecdotal evidence and empirical studies have shown that economically literate students tend to develop decision-making skills that benefit not only them as individual adult citizens, voters, consumers and wage earners, but also their communities. Hence, it is in a society’s best interest to promote economic and personal finance education in schools (and other learning institutions). Students who master a solid understanding of these topics know how to apply that knowledge for success in our free-market economy and realize their own American Dream. We train PreK-12 teachers how to integrate these topics into the daily classroom curriculum in an cross-disciplinary manner. By teaching teachers, we achieve a multiplier effect with each trained teacher impacting on average 50 students per school year. All of our Professional Development training is approved by the Arkansas Department of Education, project based, curriculum integrated and standards aligned. We take the "eek" out of economics.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.
“Braydon”, a middle school student in the impoverished Arkansas Delta, was constantly in trouble. If he showed up for school at all, he’d typically sit in the back of the classroom and crack jokes with the “bad” kids. Doing homework, paying attention, studying for tests—not so much. Then his teacher introduced the Stock Market Game and Braydon did a complete turnaround. He moved to a seat in the front row, stopped receiving suspensions. “It was a game changer,” the teacher said.
The Stock Market Game is an investment simulation competition offered through Economics Arkansas for student teams in grades 4-12 to invest a $100,000 hypothetical portfolio. They learn research and investment skills, economics, math, business, social studies and personal finance. Perhaps most compellingly, discover a completely new way of thinking about success and opportunities.
5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?
5. According to statistics by the Arkansas Department of Education, ca. two-thirds of all students enrolled in public schools qualify for free or reduced lunch, indicating a low socio-economic status. The teachers we train mirror that demographic. Improving their students’ understanding of personal finance is a crucial element of achieving financial stability as they enter adulthood.
5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:
age - youth
6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?
We partner with many other organizations to promote economic, personal finance education and entrepreneurship education among students. Those include the Fed. Reserve Bank-St. Louis, school districts, six university-based centers for economic education, for-profit business, foundations and other non-profits and many others.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Economics Arkansas is a national leader in economic education. We train about 2,500 teachers each year, with an estimated student impact of more than 125,000. When a PreK student tells his teacher that there is a Pop Tart scarcity in his house because his older brother ate the last one, we know we are on the right track. Our teachers have plenty of stories how economic education is making a difference in their students' lives, here is one example: [The economics unit helped] “build a bridge out of poverty by showing students ways to access the American Dream. . . . Students took their time, talent and desire to earn money and turned it into a profitable venture. . . The project contributed to a record number of students graduating this year. In addition to helping students make better career choices and understand free enterprise, minds were enlarged and lives were enriched.”
8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?
We hope to collaborate with select school Arkansas districts to implement a full economics/personal finance/entrepreneurship curriculum across all grades PreK-12. This curriculum would be branded, grade-appropriate, consistent and continuous throughout. This approach would allow us to establish the research criteria (beyond anecdotal evidence) in support of the immediate and long-term effectiveness of such an education.
8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?
Industry Standards (labels, certification, awards, etc.)
9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?
We have a 56-year-old history of responsible, sustainable fundraising efforts. We reached a milestone in our goal of ensuring the long-term financial health of our organization in the summer of 2016, when we launched the Economics Arkansas Foundation with a lead gift of $2 million. We receive support from government sources (Arkansas Department of Education, Securities), foundations, businesses and individuals.
10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
5 staff members, 4 full-time, 1 part-time. Executive Director and Development Coordinator (fundraising, governance, board), Program Director (programs), Office Manager (all administrative tasks), Program Assistant (program support and clerical duties). http://www.economicsarkansas.org/about_us/staff.html
50 active board members, plus 4 non-voting honorary members. http://www.economicsarkansas.org/about_us/board.html
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)
White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)
No, I do not identify with an underrepresented community
How did you hear about this challenge?