And she’s offering it for free.
Carroll is director of the Southeastern branch of EverFi, a company that provides online courses in financial literacy to public school students. The company offers game-like courses that teach kids about credit cards, tax returns and other stuff that earlier generations picked up from a coach in a high school economics class.
“Schools are completely overloaded with curriculum,” Carroll said. “There’s so much they’re required to teach, there’s little time for topics like financial literacy, even though financial literacy is something students need.”
The evidence of that need, Carroll said, is all around us. The recession, she noted, was due in large part to people overextending themselves financially, borrowing too much and getting mortgages they couldn’t afford.
Some of those people, she said, never really got a good education in how finances work. And now their kids are attending schools that don’t teach financial literacy.
“They aren’t getting it in the schools, and they aren’t getting it at home because the parents didn’t get it either,” she said. It’s a problem, she said, that seems to affect a wide swath of the country — not just one area or income level.
Enter EverFi, which started about two years ago with money from Internet entrepreneurs. The business model: offer free financial education courses to schools and sell sponsorships to businesses, most of them local financial institutions. When a company sponsors the program, it can put its brand on EverFi — the old “brought to you by” line that’s commonplace in advertising.
Carroll said she expects EverFi to be in place in most schools in Calhoun County by fall at the latest, even though there’s no local sponsor yet.
“If we have to, we’ll provide it to schools at our own expense,” Carroll said. “But we usually find a partner.”
Carroll said EverFi has seen explosive growth over the past two years, expanding into thousands of schools across the country. Sometimes, she said, the program has operated in a school system for months without a sponsor.
If that sounds like a business model from the go-go 1990s, Carroll acknowledged that it does look that way on the surface.
“It looks a little start-uppy, but we’re seeing good participation,” she said.
One reason for that participation is the Community Reinvestment Act, a federal law that requires banks to spend a certain amount of their money in their local community. EverFi addresses a topic bankers care about, she said, which makes it an obvious choice when banks open their pocketbooks.
EverFi can fit into a busy academic schedule, Carroll said, because there’s no hard-and-fast timetable for finishing, and students can do the work in computer lab time or at home — provided they have computers at home, of course. Carroll acknowledged the possibility that computer have-nots could be left behind under the program.
“We have run into problems with access and bandwidth in poor communities in the Black Belt, for instance,” she said. “If there’s a school where all the students are using two computers, that’s a problem.”
Still, she said, federal school technology grants have created some bright spots in some of the poorest locations.
“You’ll go to a small town in Mississippi, and they may have an incredible computer lab,” she said.
No bonds for ‘pageant’ winners
A lower-tech version of financial literacy education is also under way this week.
On Thursday, the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service will host the Piggy Bank Pageant, an annual contest that awards $100 to the kid with the best-decorated bank. A press release from the extension service says entrants can go “hog wild” with their decorations — as long as the bank is still able to hold money.
After all, that’s the point of the event. Extension agent Isaac Chapell, who runs the show, said the event is part of Alabama Saves, a week-long event to get people to think more carefully about their financial decisions.
“We’re putting an emphasis on building wealth through starting small, saving and reducing debt,” he said. He said the program urged people young and old to “pay themselves first” by making a habit of putting aside a little from every paycheck.
In past years, the contest paid the winner with a $100 savings bond — a subtle way of telling young people that maybe there are better ways to save money than by putting it under the mattress.
That ended this year, Chapell said, because banks no longer sell paper savings bonds.
“You have to order them online now,” he said.
According to its website, the U.S. Treasury Department stopped issuing paper bonds at the beginning of 2012 — part of a cost-cutting measure.
Jobs available for robust hikers
Know any unemployed people who’d walk a mile for a job? How about 10?
The International Mountain Bike Association is hiring temporary workers for a three-month gig to help construct its Coldwater Mountain bike trail. IMBA official Stephen Mullins said the group has small pieces of construction equipment on the mountain to form the bulk of the trail. The group needs 4 to 6 people willing to follow behind the machines and do the remaining work by hand.
Mullins said each worker will use a specialized ax called a Pulaski and a hoe-like device called a McLeod to clear out stumps and smooth the edges of the road. If you’re already familiar with those tools, both used in woodland firefighting, you’re probably a good fit for the job.
And one more thing.
“This is ideal for someone who’s very physically fit,” he said. “Plan on walking 10 miles or so per day.”
Workers will hike to the work site and back and will need to take their own food, Mullins said.
Work will likely be suspended in the hot summer months, but there’s a chance of being re-hired if there’s work left to do in October, he said. The job pays $7.50 per hour. To apply write to: email@example.com
— Tim Lockette
Big Lots eyeing new locations
To move or not to move, that is the question.
Big Lots, which has a store on McClellan Boulevard in Anniston Plaza, is evaluating its options, said Toni Fink, spokeswoman for the chain.
“No decisions have been made,” Fink said. “It’s one of those things that we’re doing in most of our markets throughout the country.”
It’s not unusual for the company to re-evaluate its locations or to look for new ones, Fink said. The company opened 92 stores last year, she said.
“It’s one of those things where we take a look at all our different areas and see where we can fill in and if it makes sense to keep stores or move stores,” Fink said.
Attempts to speak to a representative of Coastal Equities, which manages Anniston Plaza, were unsuccessful.
— Laura Camper