Tom Morton, Townsquare Media

By 2018, graduates of high schools in Natrona County will know more about their money and their communities.The Natrona County School District Board of Trustees voted Monday at its bimonthly meeting to require students to take these courses starting then, which will add two credits needed for graduation.

Trustee and former teacher Dana Howie, who headed the effort for the new courses, said former students have told her they wished they had been taught how to manage their money and taught how to participate better in their communities.
Howie has seen the need for learning money management both from her perspective as a retired home economics teacher and as a parent.
"We want kids to be able to handle their money," she said.
"When my son went to college, and he was a math major, he couldn't figure out why he needed to balance his checkbook, manage his money, follow a budget," Howie said. "It got him in all kinds of trouble."
Students already do well in community programs such as volunteering, she said.
But there's still a need for basic knowledge in how government works and how they are a part of the political process, Howie said, "as far as how to vote, how to decide who to vote for, what's a political party, how to take care of your community, just be a responsible citizen."
This fits with the overall mission of the school district, she said.
"That's what we want kids to have," Howie said. "And it's part of our vision of a prepared graduate."
The two credits increase to 26.5 the number of credits required to graduate, but that won't add to the time students spend to earn enough credits to graduate, Howie said.
Now, if a student took full course loads during their high school careers, they would have 32 credits by the time they graduate.
The board had previously given its approval to the money and civics courses, but the high schools needed more time to hire teachers and implement the programs.
The number of credits required to graduate will increase to 26.5 before the class of 2018, but they will be electives, Howie said.
If students want to take the money and civics classes as electives, they can and that's fine, she said.
In the meantime, they can take other electives instead toward graduation, she said.