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Conservative finance guru Dave Ramsey’s textbook gets nod in Pasco as residents object

Finance guru Dave Ramsey wears a black blazer and jeans and talks on a stage in front of a wood paneled background
Videos of finance guru Dave Ramsey talking on stage about why debt is bad, appear in the online curriculum for the Ramsey textbook.

The Florida Department of Education reversed its stance on Ramsey's materials this year, and removed them from its "not approved for K-12" list.

In his popular radio show, listened to by millions each week, money guru Dave Ramsey argues that debt is bad. He urges listeners to pay for college with cash, take out no loans, and avoid credit cards in favor of debit cards.

“Credit cards are snakes. They're designed to bite you,” Ramsey, an evangelical Christian, says in a video included in the online course materials that accompany his textbook, “Foundations in Personal Finance, 4th edition.”

This summer, the Pasco County School District gave preliminary approval for Ramsey's textbook to be used in schools to meet a new financial literacy requirement in Florida, despite hearing from residents who point out it contains references to Bible verses, and say it lacks academic rigor.

A screenshot of the online materials show a white students smiling at cash in his wallet, below the words: "Debt is dumb, cash is king."
Pasco County Schools
A screenshot of the chapter four header in Ramsey's textbook

“This text fails to address any teaching on reasonable debt, compound interest, contractual agreements, and makes unrealistic suggestions like never having a car loan unless you’re a millionaire or telling high school students they must work and save their money and pay for college entirely out of pocket,” said Jessica Wright, a Pasco parent and former teacher who is among those objecting to the district’s choice.

“These narratives are tone deaf and let the reader know that Dave Ramsey is out of touch with the realistic needs and struggles of everyday families.”

According to Wright, 23 people have filed written objections to the decision to use Ramsey’s textbook as a required resource for financial literacy in Pasco County schools.

The objectors expect to make their case before a hearing officer in early October.

For years, Ramsey’s textbook was on the Florida Department of Education’s “Not recommended” list.

That changed in the 2023-24 school year, just as a law signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022 takes effect.

The Dorothy L. Hukill Financial Literacy Act requires a half credit in financial literacy in order to graduate, and applies to all incoming high school students this year. It doesn't affect those already enrolled in high school.

A screenshot of the course material shows Proverbs 22: "Don't become a prisoner or a slave to debt!"
The online course material contains references to the Bible, and repeats the phrase "debt is dumb."

According to the Tampa Bay Times, one of Florida’s three expert reviewers expressed concern about the Ramsey-centric content, but approved it anyway.

“Most information infers Mr. Dave Ramsey as the expert due to content references on financial literacy with a biased view on some financial literacy education concepts,” wrote Reviewer 2, whose name was not provided, according to the Times report.

“Reviewer 3, also unnamed, wrote that the text includes some ‘very good lessons’ … but did not recommend it for adoption: ‘I do find that there is a spillage of his views into the text. Of course that is what the author believes, but ... inclusion of other primary source documents and thinking from other economists would make this text a little more analytical and keep to economic theory as well as accepted finance practices,’” the Times reported.

The push to include financial literacy in high schools is an idea the nonprofit Florida Council on Economic Education has supported. But executive director Suzanne Constanza described Ramsey as “one of the more controversial personal finance gurus out there.”

"His methodology for personal finance and training is not something that we endorse necessarily at the Florida Council. We are not of the same mindset. We believe that not all debt is bad debt, and we believe that when managed properly, credit cards can enhance your life,” Costanza said.

“When we're teaching young students about credit and debt, I think that there's a much more middle-of-the-road, safe approach to say, yes, you might get into debt, but here's how we're going to take care of that. And here's the way to protect yourself and be smart about what you're doing.”

Beverly Ledbetter, with gray hair and glasses, speaks at a microphone at the July Pasco Co school board meeting
Pasco County Schools
Beverly Ledbetter is among those who have spoken out against the materials.

Ramsey Education did not respond to a request for comment, and Pasco County School District officials also did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

“Lesson One has a quote from Proverbs 22,” said Beverly Ledbetter, who was among those objecting to the materials at a Pasco County school board meeting in July.

“There are three points. One: debt is bad. Two: pay cash. And three: if you have debt you are, quote, ‘dumb,’ ” she added.

“The Ramsey book does not further our district provision of a world-class education,” Ledbetter said.

I cover health and K-12 education – two topics that have overlapped a lot since the pandemic began.