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United States Senate



Economic & Financial Literacy

Senator Akaka has worked to increase confidence in money management, grounded in basic economic principals, by ensuring the education, protection, and empowerment of individuals and families in Hawaii and across the Nation.  He is an acknowledged champion of economic and financial literacy in the United States, having received national awards for his work from organizations such as the National Council on Economic Education and Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy.

Excellence in Economic Education Act.  Senator Akaka successfully obtained $1.5 million annually in FY 2004, FY 2005, and FY 2006 appropriations to fund the Excellence in Economic Education Act (EEE Act), which he authored and included in the No Child Left Behind Act (P.L. 107-110).  The EEE Act awards a competitive grant to a national nonprofit educational organization that exists primarily to improve student understanding about economic and financial literacy through the classroom.

The EEE Act requires the national grantee to distribute 75 percent of funds to state and local partnerships for teacher training, assistance to school districts desiring to incorporate economics and personal finance into curricula, evaluations of the impact of economic and financial literacy education on students, related research, and school-based student activities.  EEE funds have supported projects in Hawaii such as those to produce curriculum for use in Hawaii's schools and conduct an educational poster competition focusing on fundamental economic concepts; winning posters are published in a calendar.

College Students.  Senator Akaka will be reintroducing the College Literacy in Finance and Economics (LIFE) Act, to address the problem of increasing debt loads among the nation's college students.  His bill would amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 (HEA) to enhance financial and economic literacy for college students through provisions such as new grant programs to encourage innovative delivery methods, create or share best practices about college personal finance courses, study integration of financial literacy into basic educational subjects, and provide for teacher and high school counselor training.  The bill also authorizes personal finance and economic education and counseling as allowable uses in existing higher education programs and create a pilot program involving annual credit counseling for college students.  Portions of the bill were included in pending HEA reauthorizations which were not enacted prior to sine die adjournment of the 109th Congress.

Financial Literacy and Education Commission.  Senator Akaka worked with his colleagues to pass as a part of Fair Credit Reporting Act reauthorizing legislation (P.L. 108-159) a measure to create the Financial Literacy and Education Commission.  The Commission, which first convened in January 2004, is an intergovernmental coordinating body whose goal is to improve the financial decision making of all Americans by strengthening education to raise financial literacy levels.  Chaired by the Secretary of the Treasury, the Commission is based in the Department of the Treasury's Office of Financial Education and includes participants from the federal agencies that are engaged in financial literacy and education efforts.

Senator Akaka secured $1 million for the Financial Literacy and Education Commission for FY 2005 for the development and implementation of the national strategy to promote basic financial literacy and education among all American consumers.  The Treasury Department unveiled its national strategy in April, 2006, and will continue to use remaining funds for strategy implementation.

Financial Literacy Month.  Senator Akaka introduced and the Senate adopted for the fourth straight year a resolution creating a special designation in the month of April, to maintain visibility for the importance of and need for financial and economic literacy in the U.S.  In 2003, Senator Akaka's resolution designated April as Financial Literacy for Youth Month. The focus was broadened to include individuals of all ages in 2004, 2005, and 2006 by designating the month as Financial Literacy Month.  The House of Representatives and Hawaii State Legislature has followed Senator Akaka's lead.

Senator Akaka initiated the idea of Financial Literacy Day on the Hill, where public, private, and nonprofit entities in the economic and financial literacy community come to Capitol Hill to inform Members of Congress and their staffs about ongoing efforts in this area, taken place around the country.  Senator Akaka spoke at all events, including the most recent and fourth Financial Literacy Day on the Hill in the Hart Senate Office Building on April 25, 2006.

Economic and Financial Literacy Conferences - As in 2003 and 2004, Senator Akaka cosponsored Hawaii's 2005 Economic and Financial Literacy Conference with the Hawaii Council on Economic Education.  The events have been viewed as successful by many parties due to the level of participation by representatives from several communities and industries including education, business, banking, and federal and state government, which signaled a common understanding that collaborative efforts to combat economic and financial illiteracy need to be made on several coordinated fronts.

The first conference helped identify and understand challenges that lay ahead and suggest solutions to increase financial and economic literacy for children and adults.  Recommendations included providing professional development to teachers, forming a coalition of interested entities to focus efforts, and encouraging integration into basic subjects to make those subjects more interesting or easier to teach and, in turn, to help economics and personal finance fit into the framework of the No Child Left Behind Act.

The second conference unveiled the results of an economics education survey to assess the economic and financial literacy of seniors in Hawaii's public high schools.  The average score was 10.7 of 20 questions or 54 percent.  An identical survey of adults in the Hawaii labor force conducted in March 2003 by HCEE registered an average score of 59.8 percent.  The conference also featured a panel discussion with various state and national representatives, analyses of case studies related to the goals set at the 2003 conference, and roundtable sessions that identified challenges and prioritized strategies for implementation in Hawaii.

The third conference worked to further increase awareness in Hawaii about the importance of economic and financial literacy; bridge the gap between the business sector and educators to work together to ensure that our schools have the resources to teach economics successfully; further strengthen relationships and deepen commitments made at the last conference; and identify strategies for improving economic and financial literacy in Hawaii.  Senator Akaka was pleased by the level of participation by exhibitors and attendees, particularly teachers, as well as the results of the case study, the proceedings of panel and breakout session discussions, and suggestions for implementation produced by conference participants.

In 2006, the Hawaii Council on Economic Education focused primarily on developing an idea which came out of previous conferences, which is to train and establish a cadre of high school economics teachers to serve as champions for economic and financial literacy in Hawaii's schools.  Senator Akaka has continued to work closely with the Council in the establishment of such a cadre.

Financial Education for the Military and Investor Education Events.  As the Ranking Democrat on the Readiness Subcommittee in Armed Services, Senator Akaka launched a comprehensive financial education campaign for the military in Honolulu on April 12, 2006.  Sponsored by the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) Investor Education Foundation, in cooperation with the Department of Defense, the campaign is designed to help military personnel and their families manage their money with confidence.  This is the first of such programs that will be conducted across the country.

Senator Akaka is working to ensure that our troops and their families have the resources they need, so we can maintain a strong, capable, and ready military force.  He views financial readiness as a very important component of this effort, because servicemembers and their families in Hawaii and across the country are being taken in by predatory lenders.  This is happening on or near bases where unscrupulous financiers are charging hidden fees, applying exorbitant interest rates, and marketing unnecessary products.  Senator Akaka is working to do all he can to protect consumers, including this financial readiness campaign for the military, in addition to his bill S. 1347, the Low-Cost Alternatives to Payday Loans Act, which promotes low-cost alternatives to payday loans.

Senator Akaka also cosponsored investor education forums in 2005 on Maui and Oahu, and in 2006 on Kauai and in Hilo on the Big Island.  The forums aimed to help residents better understand investing in securities.  Joining him in this effort were the NASD, the Hawaii State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and the Hawaii Council on Economic Education.  In all, the events drew more than 2,500 attendees.

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