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The Dispatch: Comptroller Visits OC Elementary For Leadership Day

WEST OCEAN CITY – Maryland’s comptroller joined local leaders at Ocean City Elementary School this week to offer students a lesson on taxes.

On Monday, officials with Junior Achievement of the Eastern Shore – a local nonprofit that educates students on financial literacy, entrepreneurship and work readiness – held its first Leadership Day at Ocean City Elementary School (OCES).

Throughout the morning, volunteers with Junior Achievement taught second-grade students about different careers, how money moves through the community and why people pay taxes. The lessons then culminated in an interactive tax simulation with Comptroller Peter Franchot, Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, School Superintendent Lou Taylor, Ocean City Fire Chief Chris Larmore, Police Captain Ray Austin, incoming Worcester County State’s Attorney-Elect Kris Heiser, Worcester County Library Director Jennifer Ranck and OCES Principal Dawn Rogers.

Jayme Hayes, president of Junior Achievement, said the Leadership Day program teaches students how the community operates and how tax dollars are used.

“They are voting for a mayor, they are getting their very first job at a business – a doughnut shop – and they will get their very first paycheck,” she said. “Once they get their paycheck, they will be paying their taxes for the first time.”

More than 120 students gathered in the OCES gym on Monday afternoon to see their “tax dollars” doled out to various public entities, such as the police department, the school system and the library.

“They will come in here, give their taxes to the comptroller, and the comptroller will then, in a visual representation of what taxes are used for, pay the public officials …,” Hayes said. “It’s very much a visual representation of how your tax dollars are used, and the comptroller explains that as he hands money to each of these entities.”

As part of the simulation, Franchot collected the students “tax dollars” and distributed them to local officials participating in the assembly. He then explained to students that money collected from taxpayers is used to pay for desks, books, police cars, fire trucks, sidewalks, salaries and more.

“The people we have paid will take this and use it to make our community strong and a place that everyone can participate in,” he said.

Franchot added that he was excited to see the students had a strong understanding of fiscal responsibility.

“Financial literacy I think is the gateway to personal happiness,” he said. “With it, you have some sense of stability.”

Hayes pointed out that it was never too early to teach students financial concepts.

“This is an important time for them because a lot of financial patterns begin to emerge,” she said. “By fourth grade, students have an understanding of money that they sort of adopt. Statistically speaking, if they are frivolous with their money by then, they will always be frivolous with their money. Early intervention is always important.”

Hayes said the nonprofit teaches nearly 9,000 students each year on concepts such as needs versus wants, budgeting, bills and more.

“What’s important about teaching our students financial education is it can’t be a one-time visit,” she said. “Our curriculum is built on itself, so each year they learn a little bit more. It gets more in depth until 12th graders are talking about retirement planning, credit scores and loans.”

Hayes said Junior Achievement is unique in that it partners with local businesses to provide the lessons. Monday’s program, for example, was sponsored by Deeley Insurance and featured volunteer from the company.

“Our model is to bring the business community into the classroom,” she said, “so they get to see someone from the business community who’s different from their teacher and that can talk about real-life concepts.”

Hayes said lessons introduced in the schools are meant to help students plan for their future and promote smart economic choices.

“You can win the lottery and claim bankruptcy,” she said, “and you can make $30,000 a year and live within your means.”

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