by ALAN KLINE
FEB 24, 2015 12:00am ET
Listen to John Bryant's pitch funding financial literacy education in U.S. schools and it's easy to see why former President Bill Clinton once called Bryant "a whirlwind of ideas and action." Bryant believes strongly that adults across all incomes would be less likely to fall behind on loans, overdraw their bank accounts or max out their credit cards if they had received some money-management training as youngsters. Yet even in the wake of a housing bust that was, in part, the result of unsophisticated borrowers buying homes they couldn't afford, financial education in public schools is more of the exception than the rule. Operation Hope's programs are taught in about 4,000 schools, but superintendents in other districts who would like to add courses in money management often can't do so because funding for any new programs is scarce.
Bryant's idea is for local governments to sell what he calls "financial literacy bonds." As he envisions it, a city would bring in economists to calculate how much revenue it is losing each year from things like property tax defaults, missed utility payments and fees paid to payday or car title lenders that might otherwise buy goods and services that generate sales taxes. This is revenue that cities are missing out on because many of their residents have little understanding of how to manage money. The city would sell the bonds to investors and use the proceeds to fund financial education in schools and credit counseling programs for adults. Investors would be repaid with the money the city is saving by having a more financially literate citizenry.
Posted by Natasha Eldridge, Office of the Chairman