Another Voice: Buffalo’s Economic Future Depends on Students’ Financial Literacy | Opinion

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Buffalo’s economic recovery over the past decade has been well documented and analyzed from almost every angle. While our city’s overall financial outlook has improved, too many people — especially blacks and browns and the working poor — have fallen behind this so-called resurgence. We cannot wait for developers or elected officials to save us. We need to start empowering individuals from an early age. That’s why I recently introduced a resolution to the Common Council urging New York State and Buffalo Public Schools to update their curriculum with mandatory financial literacy courses.

By giving students the tools to manage the essentials of their personal finances, we can prepare them for a secure life whether they’re earning six figures or earning minimum wage. Most kids in my community won’t need to understand how stock portfolios work. But they will need to know how to balance their checkbooks. They need to know how to establish credit so they can buy homes for their families. They need to know how to apply for loans and bank accounts.

Last year, Dr. Henry Taylor of the University at Buffalo published an in-depth study of the progress and current condition of Black Buffalonians titled “The Harder We Run.” It describes how historic segregation and disinvestment in black neighborhoods created problems of unemployment, stagnant wages, and homeownership that persist decades later. I see these problems in the university district and throughout the city every day. African Americans disproportionately live below the poverty line, are more likely to rent, and have lower median household incomes.

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We have the opportunity to equip our young people with the knowledge to do more with less. With the skills to make prudent financial decisions for themselves, young people can provide lasting financial security and stability in the city of Buffalo, regardless of systemic disadvantages. The labor market fluctuates, the cost of higher education makes it inaccessible for most, inflation continues to rise. Strong personal finance habits can defend you against all of this. A single course or textbook could make a huge difference in a student’s future.

Florida State requires high school students to take a half-credit personal finance course to graduate. My resolution calls on New York State and the Buffalo Board of Education to consider instituting a similar standard here in Buffalo.

As Chair of City Council’s Finance Committee, I know that sound management of our city’s finances is essential to our continued growth and stability. Equally important is an individual’s ability to determine their financial success.

Common Council Member Rasheed NC Wyatt represents the University District.

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