Balancing the Federal Budget

This morning Coloma High School students are balancing the federal budget! Actually they are participating in Exercise in Hard Choices, a simulation that helps students understand the federal budget process. We’re connected with the University of Akron, Ohio, who is facilitating the videoconference, and a class in Decatur and Midland, Michigan.

The program started with an overview of budgeting, at a student level, state level, and federal level. Additional graphs helped students compare U.S. federal spending with other countries.

Student groups start by setting a budget goal of when (and if) they want to balance the federal budget. Each group is diverse with different viewpoints so that students experience the process of negotiation that occurs at the federal level. Then students make choices on 8 main areas: National Security, Income Support, General Government, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance, Health Insurance Coverage, and Revenues. Students enter their choices into an electronic scorecard that shows the longterm consequences of their decisions.

After they have deliberated and made their choices, the facilitator asked the students to share where their hot topics were and what issues came up as they debated. Students shared stories from people they knew and how the budget decisions affected those stories/experiences. Students clearly were engaged in the discussion and considered the country’s choices. Great experience!

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