The American Bankers Association and the Discovery Network have joined to produce an educational cable television series promoting financial literacy, aimed at children from kindergarten through high school.

The ABA Education Foundation and Discovery are sponsoring the project. MasterCard International is supplying additional funds.

"In an era where school funding is limited, more businesses are stepping in to help educate tomorrow's leaders," said Patricia Boerger, spokeswoman for the ABA.

The project will cost about $250,000, a portion of which will be provided by New York-based MasterCard.

The series will begin on the Discovery Network in February 1995 and will with "Money," a program that presents the basic concepts of money management and banking.

The series will have two versions -- "Money: Kids and Cash," for children ages 5 to 11, which will be shown on the Learning Channel's TLC Elementary School, and "Money: Banks, Bucks and Business," for teenagers, airing on the Discovery Channel.

MasterCard is sponsoring a special segment on the history of payment cards, how transactions are made, and the future of payment services, including debit cards and chip technology. There will be statistics, demographics, and payment-trend information.

"We take on a mission to educate consumers," said Steve Apesos, spokesman for MasterCard.

He pointed out that brand awareness at a young age is a plus. "We need to be able to talk to young consumers about where our industry is going."

As an educational tool, the programs will be available to 60,000 classrooms, which could reach more than 32 million students, but odd airing times will inhibit live viewing by youngsters.

Sherri Alms, associate director of the ABA Education Foundation said that teachers will be notified so they can tape the series and then invite a banker to make a classroom presentation.

After the initial air dates, ABA members will also receive copies of the program which they can use for their own community education programs. Ms. Alms said the foundation emphasizes getting bankers into the classrooms, with 5,000 executives participating each year.

"Kids need a foundation in real-life skills," said Ms. Alms referring to the ABA's commitment to education. "Financial management fits fight into that."

"Financially educated consumers make better credit risks," added Ms. Boerger. "If they know how to better manage their money, maybe there'll be less delinquencies" in the future.

Janice Shields, project coordinator for the Center for Study of Responsive Law, a Washington, D.C.-based, Ralph Nader organization, said that while the program sounds beneficial, "I wouldn't count on bankers to give good information about consumerism."

She said that banks have been getting record spreads on interest and fee income, while they're raising fees, increasing the number of services they charge a fee for, and making it harder to avoid those fees. She suggested that consumer activists should be involved in the production to point out those facts to children.

But Ms. Boerger said that Summer Productions, the company producing the series, uses educational consultants. Teachers from the elementary and high school levels assist in choosing visuals that will be appealing to children. Teachers and students will preview the programs, and changes will be made reflecting their comments before the shows air on the cable channels.

One segment, "Entrepreneurs Who Have Struck It Rich," features the founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream chain. Used as role models, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield discuss how to start a business, how much of their earnings are reinvested into the company, how much is donated to charities, and what role banks play in assisting new businesses.

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