Freedom of Information
Before beginning this lesson plan, you will need to obtain a copy of the town budget. This will work even better if you have several town budgets to compare, but one will at least give students an idea of how taxpayer money and other government funds are spent. Town budgets are actually published in the newspaper and can be obtained by going to the town hall and politely asking for a copy of the budget. You may even want to make note of how smoothly this transaction did or did not go in order to share the experience with your students. Make enough copies of this budget to give each student one.
Begin this budget lesson plan by talking with students about obtaining government information. Are students aware that private citizens are allowed to see the government budget at the various government levels? Share your experience with them to give them insight into how easy it was (or not) for you to obtain a copy of the town budget.
A Look at the Budget
Give each student a copy of the town budget to review for this budget lesson plan. Allow students time to look over the budget. Ask students to write down any questions they might have about the budget; for example, what some of the terminology is or specific questions about how and where this money is spent.
Put students into groups of two. Each set of students should be assigned one portion of the budget, breaking the budget up evenly between all the classmates. Ask students to review this portion of the budget and point out any excessive spending. Ask students to research their portions of the budget and come up with their own idea of why the budget should be changed to the way they would have it done. Was there a "better" way to budget this money? What benefits would be gained by the community as whole if the money was spent in a different way?
Buy doing tis project, students not only get a glimpse of where government money is spent but also get to see how easy or difficult it is to maintain a large budget that is probably not large enough to meet the needs of the community it serves.