Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell wants to discover his state's students with the sharpest personal finance skills. In a statement to reporters, McDonnell announced the Governor's Challenge in Economics and Personal Finance, a semester-long program to encourage financial literacy in the state's high schools. Teams of four students each can qualify for a "quiz bowl" style competition in Richmond by scoring the highest in an online test that will run from March 7 to April 4.

The Governor's Challenge will test teams' ability to understand and explain key elements of personal finance, such as how to compare credit card deals, how to invest for retirement, and how to manage daily cash flow. Teams in advanced divisions will also answer questions about broader economic principles related to trade and taxation. 36 of the highest scoring teams across all three divisions will earn invitations to compete in a championship competition in Richmond on April 20, 2012.

Virginia to require financial literacy for high school diploma

The competition marks the launch of an initiative that Virginia education officials hope will improve financial education across the state. High school teachers can enroll in professional development institutes that inspire creative economic coursework and classroom discussion. Bank of America, Capital One, SunTrust, and other credit card issuers helped fund the teacher training institutes, conducted at a network of colleges and universities throughout the state.

McDonnell's announcement coincides with the launch of a new state initiative that requires high school students to earn at least one credit in economics and personal finance to qualify for a diploma. Only students entering the ninth grade this year face this mandatory graduation guideline, but state officials told reporters that they hope the Governor's Challenge will encourage upperclassmen to voluntarily participate in personal finance classes.