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Education Foundation considering savings accounts for students

The Education Foundation Board met last week and listened to a presentation from the City of Jackson’s Christiana Gallagher about a possible effort for students in Jackson-Madison County Schools.

Gallagher, who came to work on Mayor Scott Conger’s leadership staff after spending the majority of her career in banking, has seen a few examples of when municipalities and school districts funded savings accounts for students to teach them about money.

“This is a program that I’ve seen in different places throughout the country that works well teaching financial literacy,” Gallagher said. “I grew up in a home where I was taught financial literacy, but I didn’t know until I was older that not everyone did.

“There are actually a lot of students that aren’t taught financial literacy, and this is a way students can be taught financial literacy and be able to know about saving and investing and interest and how all of that works and can help you at an early age.”

The proposal was simple: Ask the EF Board to discuss funding $50 savings accounts – all at the same bank – for an entire class of students as they enter kindergarten. The average size of Jackson-Madison County Schools’ kindergarten class is a little more than 1,000 students, so an entire class’ savings accounts would be a little more than $52,000.

The account could be used to help the students learn about banking as they grow older, and parents would have the option to add to it if they wanted to so the student would have a sum of money in the bank when they graduate high school.

Estimates of growth with interest rates at graduation if no contributions were made would be about $150.

New EF Board member Gerry Neese and Union University’s Ben Phillips had questions about the proposal.

Neese’s main question is how would this initiative be funded if the EF were dissolved in 2027, which is a possibility since it’s original intent in its proposal was to last for 10 years as an agreement between the City and Madison County.

Gallagher’s answer was to look at other options for another source of funds if that were to happen.

Phillips’ question may have provided an answer to Neese’s question. He asked why bring the proposal to the EF when maybe it should be the bank that funds the initiative.

“I don’t know how long it costs to get new customers vs. maintaining existing customers, but I’d be willing to bet that a lot of banks would be willing to pay $52,000 for 1,000 new customers,” Phillips said.

The EF Board didn’t vote on the proposal, but they did speak positively about it and its potential at the end of the meeting. The Board will look at making a move on the proposal in a future meeting.

Dispute about Board membership

There was a few minutes of adamant discussion between EF Board President Tina Mercer and Trey Cleek, who’s been a board member since being appointed by the county commission in September of 2022.

The dispute between the two was about whether or not Cleek is currently a member of the board.

The way Mercer interpreted the bylaws and the time frame of the appointment, Cleek’s appointment expired on Sept. 30.

Cleek’s rebuttal said that his appointment, which is finishing the appointment vacated by Dan Brooks when he resigned last year, actually went through Oct. 31.

County attorney Jay Bush said his interpretation was the Cleek is on the board until the county commission appoints a new member, which they’re set to do Monday night at their monthly meeting.

Mercer said she’d discussed the situation with new county commission chairman Mike Taylor, and he said he’d get the situation taken care of at this month’s meeting.

Appointing all three representatives of the County on staggered terms is on the agenda for that meeting.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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