Sunday, January 17, 2010

A New Year and a Look at the Budget

Ripped from the Headlines

Last year I wrote you a blog on teaching the federal budget and budgetary process (see Dec. 14, 2008), and gave you a short class project that you could use with the students to promote the idea of cutting budgets and balancing budgets. It was a nice little project and I still like to use it with my students.

I need to be totally honest with you and say that this year I really don't have anything new to share with you on this topic, however, I do feel a sense of urgency in having you make sure that your students are really aware of these topics and issues.

It has been several years since we have had a pure budget question appear on the AP Exam. A budget question of sorts appeared in 2002 concerning distribution of federal funds. That question demanded that students have knowledge of the important issues of entitlement payments.

The last real pure budget question dates back to 1999 in which pie charts similar to the one above were used demanding interpretation for students to answer the questions. The question tested to see if the students understood the "barriers" to new policy initiatives. Frankly, it was a tough question. Students had to not only understand the categories of spending but also "walls" in congress that kept spending concerns from manifesting into actual policy decisions. Have you taught that yet this year???

Now, I sure don't have an "in" with College Board or the test writing committees, but any AP teacher who has been in the business for a number of years knows to start anticipating questions from certain topics. Especially when we haven't seen a question from that topic in a number of years we should get a bit nervous about an upcoming appearance. When that topic is front page and "above the fold" on a daily basis in papers all across the nation we better be on the ball and reviewing possible questions with our students. I am not one who likes to play the "guess the question" game, but this year I just have that feeling!

The budget problems we are seeing now in the country are not just federal. States have entered into a serious and contentious set of budget problems. With a recession still affecting many parts of the nation, states as well as the federal government are contending with taxpayer cries of "no new taxes" while the government bodies are experiencing dwindling revenues and increased expenditures. Most states have balanced budgets provisions in their constitutions, leaving a dilemma of daunting proportion.

The AP exams seem to love to hit on timely current event questions that are ripped from the headlines of the daily news. This year, I am spending a couple of extra days on the budget and will surely give it more time in my pre-test review sessions. I just have that feeling!!!

I still like to share the National Debt Clock with the students and we took a look at the Cost of War site. My students this year, like all years, were dumbfounded with the gargantuan numbers and the rapidly ticking off of dollars. One student this asked, "can we even print the money that fast?" Good question...I had never thought of it that way.

The President's budget will be coming out in the next couple of for the headlines and analysis and spend some extra time with the topic...I don't think you will be sorry.

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