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By Pamela M. Prah, Stateline.org

Students paid attention when Mark Ingram, former Alabama Crimson Tide star and current running back for the New Orleans Saints, showed up at Calera High School outside of Birmingham, Alabama.

Ingram and Alabama state Treasurer Young Boozer unveiled a free educational video game called “Financial Football,” developed by the NFL and Visa Inc. The game allows students to move their favorite team down the field and score if they answer money management questions correctly. Now in 41 states, the game and classroom curriculum aim to give high school and middle school students the fundamentals of personal finance.

“Students enjoyed the game,” said Dawn Morrison of the Alabama Department of Education. “They did learn something without realizing they were learning.”

The recent recession raised greater awareness of the importance of money management skills as many people purchased homes they could not afford by signing mortgages they did not fully understand. But the recession also cut deeply into state budgets, forcing policymakers to find new ways to get money management into school curricula and creative ways to pay for it.

Currently, only four states — Missouri, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia — require that high school students take a stand-alone personal finance course to graduate, according to Jump$tart Coalition, made up of 150 financial institutions, consumer groups and federal agencies.

The Council of Economic Education, which also gets backing from businesses and financial institutions, estimates that 17 states require high school students to take courses that include personal finance instruction. Both groups lobby for more financial literacy in schools.

Teens are big consumers — spending as much as $91 billion in 2011, by one estimate — but few are saving for college or other long-term goals or understand basic financial terms. More than 75 percent of 16- to 18-year-olds say they are financially savvy, but less than 20 percent knew what a 401(k) plan is and only 32 percent knew how credit card interest and fees work, according to a 2011 survey from the investment firm of Charles Schwab & Co. Less than a third of young adults have basic knowledge of interest rates, inflation and other financial terms, according to a federal study.

In some states, such as Alabama, personal finance is taught as part of another course. Alabama has been on the bottom of many state-by-state rankings for personal finance instruction, and a state-appointed commission had recommended better courses for high school students.

Beginning this year, students there will have to pass a course called Career Preparedness to graduate, under new state Department of Education requirements. The course includes financial literacy, but also teaches basic computer programs, such as Word and Excel, needed in the workplace.

Advocates are pressing schools to incorporate personal finance in math and language arts classes in elementary schools. “You’ve got to start early,” said Laura Levine, executive director of Jump$tart Coalition. “A one-semester course should not be the end-all.”

Nearly 20 states last year approved legislation or adopted resolutions regarding financial literacy, according to a tally by the National Conference of State Legislatures. Among them, California required the state board of education to integrate financial literacy into existing curricula.

Florida revised requirements for high school graduation to include financial literacy within a required economics course, and Maine added personal finance course work as part of social studies or history courses that are required for graduation. Utah established a task force to look at how to improve financial and economic literacy education in the public school system.

States and schools can tap into various federal grant programs, including from the Department of Education, for financial literacy, and federal websites and toolkits. But many schools also are finding help from companies with a vested interest, such as Visa and others in the financial sector.

Visa’s Practical Money Skills program, which developed “Financial Football” with the NFL, is among the most high profile privately produced financial literacy programs offered to states and schools. A YouTube video released this year, for example, stars San Francisco 49ers players Joe Staley and Colt McCoy as well as California State Controller John Chiang and California State Board of Equalization member Betty T. Yee. The games also are available as a free application for use on mobile devices.

Photo: StacyA via Flickr

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

Tina Peters

YouTube Screenshot

A right-wing conspiracy theorist who was indicted in March on criminal charges of tampering with voting machines to try to prove former President Donald Trump's lies of a stolen 2020 presidential election on Tuesday lost the Republican primary to run for secretary of state of Colorado, the person who oversees its elections.

With 95 percent of the vote counted, Tina Peters, the clerk and recorder of Mesa County, Colorado, was in third place, trailing the winner, fellow Republican Pam Anderson, 43.2 percent to 28.3 percent.

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