BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — The state awarded grants this week to Salem High and 10 other schools to develop financial literacy programs.
The Gateway Cities grants target urban school districts that want to establish pilot programs for next school year to help students understand and manage their personal finances.
Salem High, however, appears ahead of the game.
The school established a “Money Matters” course more than five years ago that teaches students about credit cards, loans, taxes, bank accounts, personal budgets and even the stock market.
The $13,700 grant to Salem High will be used to nearly double an elective program that currently has about 50 students, an official said. Funds will be spent on iPads and professional development.
“I want more kids to take the course,” said Carol Carr, the head teacher in the business department at Salem High.
“It’s basic information everybody should have,” she said. “We teach kids ... how to get into business or careers, but we don’t teach people how to manage their money. It’s a big gap.”
Both the federal and state governments are pushing financial literacy courses, Carr said, in the wake of a financial crisis that saw people lose homes and jobs and struggle under mountains of debt.
Salem High teamed on the grant with Salem State University, Salem CyberSpace, Cabot Money Management and Salem Five.
Dorothy Siden, director of the Center for Economic Education at Salem State, served on a state advisory committee that worked on the Gateway Cities grants. Siden, chairwoman of the economics department at Salem State, said these course will teach essential knowledge to students heading out into the real world.
“They will be going to college,” she said. “They will be taking out loans. They have to realize the value of money. ... Most of them are working, and many have credit cards, and they need financial literacy.”
Funds also were awarded to high schools in Fall River, Haverhill, Holyoke, Lowell, Lynn, Quincy, Revere, Springfield and Worcester.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.