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Why was Dave Ramsey's financial literacy textbook approved in Florida?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Starting this year, Florida high schoolers have to take a financial literacy course in order to graduate. The state approved teaching materials by Dave Ramsey, an evangelical radio host who preaches against debt. Here's Kerry Sheridan of our member station WUSF.

KERRY SHERIDAN, BYLINE: The Ramsey Solutions financial literacy textbook has online quizzes and videos featuring the radio host onstage.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVE RAMSEY: Credit cards are snakes. They're designed to bite you. They're not your friend, and you're not going to win.

SHERIDAN: Ramsey encourages people to live debt free, use cash instead of credit cards. There are also religious references, says Beverly Ledbetter, a longtime social studies teacher.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEVERLY LEDBETTER: Chapter 6 in Lesson 1 has Proverbs 23 quoted, and Lesson 6 has Proverbs 27 quoted.

SHERIDAN: She says Ramsey's penchant for quoting the Bible is a concern. She also takes issue with the overall tone.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

LEDBETTER: The main idea that runs through this book - there are three points. One, debt is bad. Two, pay cash. And three, if you have debt, you are, quote, "dumb."

SHERIDAN: The Florida Board of Education approved his book, "Foundations In Personal Finance," after the publisher asked for it. Jessica Wright, a parent of two in Pasco County, has been pushing back. She says the state and her local school board acted too fast. The curriculum, she says, lacks academic rigor. It's missing lessons on math and calculating compound interest.

JESSICA WRIGHT: We really have, you know, people that were just kind of jumping ahead and not being super thoughtful about the overall decision. I think that's best-case scenario. Worst-case scenario, I think we've got some politicians that are pulling the strings behind the scenes.

SHERIDAN: The Florida Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Ramsey's publisher. The nonprofit Florida Council on Economic Education supports more financial literacy in schools. But its director, Suzanne Costanza, says Dave Ramsey is controversial.

SUZANNE COSTANZA: We're not of the same mindset. We believe that not all debt is bad debt. And we believe that, when managed properly, credit cards can, you know, enhance your life.

SHERIDAN: Those parents in Pasco County who've objected to the Dave Ramsey materials will get to make their case before school board officials in October.

For NPR News, I'm Kerry Sheridan in Tampa.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHILLTERTAINING'S "COVERED N MONEY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Kerry Sheridan

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