U.S. Government, Civics, U.S. History, Economics
In this lesson, students will trace the steps in the federal budget-making process. They will recognize the complexity involved in the budget process, including the competing demands for funds. Students will all analyze how compromise leads to the final budget.
Step 1: Introduce the concept of the federal budget. In a government class, the students will have already studied how a bill becomes a law. In economics, many students may not have had the exposure yet.
Step 2: Discuss the purpose of the budget and why it is important.
Step 3: In class, read whatever sections the texts have on the budget.
Step 4: Explain that all texts leave out some important steps and that their task will be to discover what those steps might be.
Step 5: Starting with what is in the text, the teacher leads the students to begin writing the steps down. Example: Most texts simplify the process: the budget starts with the President who sends it to Congress; Congress studies the bill and makes changes; when both houses have voted on it, the budget goes back to the President to complete the process.
Step 6: Inform students that they are going to unravel the missing links and develop a flow chart of the budget process in which each step will be illustrated with a symbol.
Step 7: Instruct the students that they may use research, but they can figure out much of the process by thinking about how laws are created.
Step 8: The students begin working during the period so the instructor can assist students in the beginning. The work must be neat and easy to follow.
Step 9: Students must create at least 10 steps for a 70 grade. For each additional step they earn 2 points. This permits bonus points without having to create extra assignments. Points are also earned for creativity, correct sequence, and following directions. (See Budget Flow Chart Rubric)
Step 10: Encourage students to be creative in considering symbols for the steps and to think about what happens in each phase.
Step 11: Students may need to finish the illustrated chart for homework.
Step 12: The next day the students share their work and explain symbols.
Step 13: Ask the students to explain what they discovered.
Step 14: Follow with these questions for analyses:
Why is the process so time consuming?
What reasons might the Founding Fathers have had in developing such a complicated process?
How is the system a protection?
What abuses may exist in this process?
Step 15: Now that the students have a better idea of the steps in the budget process, assign two or three to a committee and give the following instructions:
You are members of a very important interest group. You decide what it is. Explain what you would do to represent that interest group in its efforts to gain funding for a pet project, which is very dear to you.
Step 16: Students have 20-25 minutes to plan a strategy. They may either write the strategy out or present it to the class.
Step 17:Post student flow charts in the classroom.
Differentiation: Students may be paired to complete the flow chart. If students need assistance, the list may be developed with help of the teacher. Students may be directed to a specific Web site.
Text for reading about the federal budget.
Access to other sources of information about the budget process (e.g., other government or economics texts, college text, Internet, library)
Plain paper for illustrations.
Markers and/or colored pencils or drawing option on computer.
Optional: scissors, glue, butcher paper.
Students may use research to help divide the process into its separate stages.
Suggested Web sites related to the federal budget process:
Washington Post series on the budget includes a glossary of terms and links to current news on the budget and the economy.
Resources related to the US Federal Budget and spending process.
The American Association of University Professors developed a site that divides the process into three acts.
This site offers a simple timeline of the budget process.
A collection of documents that contains the budget message of the President, information about the President's budget proposals for a given fiscal year, and other budgetary publications that have been issued throughout the fiscal year. Other related and supporting budget publications, such as the Economic Report of the President, are included, which may vary from year to year.
R.L. Turner High School