Conference Promotes Teaching Fiscal Responsibility To Maine Students 

Teaching kids financial responsibility. That was the purpose of a conference in Augusta Thursday. “When I was in school, there was home economics, and that disappeared,” said Steve Koutz, who teaches math and finance at the Waynflete School in Portland.Organizers of the at the third annual Fostering Financial Literacy in Maine’s Schools say what is also disappearing is the focus on teaching personal finance to our kids at an early age. Until now.Educators from all over Maine came to the conference hoping to get the tools they need to teach financial literacy to their students. Organizers say the key is getting to kids early. “Setting that foundation from kindergarten into middle school is really important,” said Mary Dyer, President of the Maine Jump Start Coalition, who helped to put the conference together. “Because if we’re waiting until junior or senior year in high school, it’s too late and students are off to college and borrowing loans and credit cards and all of that.”The conference focuses on budgeting, understanding the difference between wants and needs, as well as ways not to fall prey to identity theft.Even though this is only the third year of the conference, the message appears to be getting through. One group of students in fact has heard it loud and clear. A group from the Waynflete School in Portland won the Federal Reserve Cup Competition by demonstrating their knowledge of a wide array of financial topics. After winning a state competition, they went on to a New England competition held in Boston where they took home the top prize. The team’s captain, Addison St. Ong-May, said after a recent visit to a college campus, he realized how vital this information is. “The number of booths of banks and credit cards and all that stuff lining the streets is kind of mind boggling,” St. Ong-May said. “I didn’t have the tools even then to evaluate which are the safe bets and which are the risky ones.”The educators that come to this conference each year are hoping to learn new ways to keep their students engaged in learning about their financial future. “In the United States, everybody cares about money,” Koutz says. “I teach 6th graders. If I really want to get their attention I bring up money. Like it or not that’s a fact.”