Magazine May 2019

Economics Arkansas – Education For Real Life

economics

by Caleb Talley

Since 1962, Economics Arkansas has been promoting economic literacy and equipping teachers with tools needed to prepare students for real-world financial decisions. The organization is gearing up for a pair of events that will aid it in the service of its mission.  

Economics Arkansas was founded by Arkansas Commissioner of Education Dr. Arch Ford to promote economic literacy in the Natural State. The organization’s first executive director, appointed by Ford, was Dr. Bessie B. Moore, a lifelong advocate for libraries and education. 

In the 57 years since the organization was formed, Economics Arkansas has worked toward its mission of equipping schools with standards-based resources and professional development to teach economics, personal finance and the free enterprise system using practical, innovative and inspiring methods.

For 20 of those 57 years, Economics Arkansas has facilitated The Stock Market Game, a national program of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) that allows students and teachers the opportunity to invest a virtual $100,000 in stocks, bonds and mutual funds throughout an engaging 12-week simulation each semester. A year-long session is also available that begins in September and ends in April. 

The program is utilized by Arkansas students in grades 4-12. The state is divided into six regions and three divisions: elementary (4th-6th grades), junior high (7th-9th grades) and senior high (10th-12th grades). The top two within each region for each division for the fall and spring session will are honored at a statewide awards luncheon on May 13. The group of students who make up this program is among the largest in the nation.

“The top performing students, based on their portfolio size, are recognized at this awards luncheon,” says Kathleen Lawson, executive director of Economics Arkansas. “We have about 15,000 students across the state play the game, which makes us the No. 1 state per capita in the country and the fourth largest in the country per volume of students.”

Students who have excelled in The Stock Market Game will have the opportunity to learn from the top executive of the world’s largest and most successful company. 

 “Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, will serve as our awards luncheon keynote speaker,” Lawson says. “We are so grateful to the support of Walmart, who is serving as the presenting sponsor for the 20th anniversary Stock Market Game Awards Luncheon.”

Tickets and sponsorships for the 20th Anniversary Stock Market Game Awards Luncheon are available and will help Economics Arkansas fund their mission. 

“The mission of Economics Arkansas is to support teachers in integrating economics and financial literacy in pre-K through 12th-grade classes,” Lawson says. “These events not only allow us to raise awareness, but they also help to generate revenue so that we can continue to support teachers in ensuring that students can leave high school, equipped to make real-world decisions.”

In addition to the annual luncheon, Economics Arkansas hopes to raise both funds and support during a first-of-its-kind fundraiser to be held on May 22. The inaugural Trade Game, based on a simulation taught to teachers as a method of educating students on the value of free enterprise, will be held in the home of Valorie and Randy Lawson, of Bentonville. 

According to the Economics Arkansas executive director, participants in the Trade Game will be given a token that they may then trade for other exciting gifts to receive the most desired item in three rounds. This hands-on activity demonstrates and measures how voluntary trade results in higher satisfaction and wealth creation. Participation helps the organization provide economic education training and resources to Arkansas teachers and their students for years to come by way of sponsorship or ticket purchases. 

“We’re pretty excited about the trade games,” Lawson says. “It’s very mission focused for us and is based on a simulation we teach high school teachers to show their students. This is the first one, and we plan to have two more in other venues across the state. We’ll announce the next one this summer.”

Randy Lawson, of Lawco Energy Group, serves as vice chair of the Economics Arkansas Board of Directors and will serve as chair beginning in 2020. He and his wife will host the inaugural event and firmly believe in the organization’s mission. 

“The free enterprise system in America has lifted more people out of poverty than any other government program or system devised by man in the history of the planet,” Randy says. “It’s better than any other system out there. Economics Arkansas strives to promote financial literacy, free enterprise, the stock market and all those things that make our economy so dynamic and offer the freedom to rise out of whatever situation you may be born into.”

He’s joined by co-hosts Lynne and Jim Walton and Sue and Charles Redfield. The Trade Game is presented by Walmart and Sam’s Club and will feature cocktails and hors d’oeuvres. 

“I think anyone who participates in this will have some fun,” Randy says. “It’s a real-life example of freedom combined with free enterprise, where people can buy, exchange and trade for whatever they think is more valuable to them. Everybody is unique, and everybody has individual needs. That’s the beauty of a free market economy.

“We’re helping instill a lifelong education, and I’m passionate about it,” he adds. “Economics Arkansas provides that missing link that some kids won’t have when they get out of high school, and they need that to make educated decisions.”

Individual tickets to the 20th Anniversary Stock Market Game Awards Luncheon featuring Walmart CEO Doug McMillon are $75. The event will be held at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock on May 13 at 11:30 a.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit economicsarkansas.org or email Marsha Masters at marsha@economicsarkansas.org. 

The inaugural Trade Game will take place on May 22, in Bentonville, beginning at 6 p.m. Individual tickets are $1,000 and can be purchased by visiting economicsarkansas.org. 

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