America's Legislators Back to School Program

Legislators in the Classroom: Teaching Democracy Appreciation
A Legislative Appropriations Committee Simulation

Quick Reference Guide

Prepared by Alan Rosenthal as a project of the Eagleton Institute of Politics of Rutgers University. The author can be reached at or (732) 828-2210, ext. 251.

Print in PDF format.

This document provides a quick overview and guide to the Appropriations Committee Simulation--"Dividing up the Pot and Paying for It." A full description of the lesson and the student handout.

Objectives of the Lesson:

To suggest to students that in a diverse society such as ours, people have different and conflicting values, interests and priorities.

To develop in students a familiarity with how legislatures try to settle conflicts over values, interests, and priorities by means of deliberation, debate, negotiation (including compromise) and majority votes.

To get across the idea that the work of the legislature trying to resolve differences is difficult.

To Prepare:

Read the lesson plan and student handout.

Consult with the classroom teacher in advance if possible.

Make at least four copies of the student handout to take to the class.

Simulation Overview:

Introduce the budget simulation to students and give an overview. Explain that you will chair the committee hearing and that they will serve as members of the committee and one subcommittee.

Divide the students into four groups to reflect the four subcommittees (Health, Education, Welfare, Homeland Security). Give a student handout to each group and ask them to consult for a period of time and decide on a position to be reported back to the full committee. Allow only a few minutes for this process.

Reconvene the appropriations committee and conduct the hearing, drawing out the differing positions and values. Try to elicit participation from most students.

Guide the committee to a vote on a balanced budget.

Debrief the committee session by using the suggested questions on page five of the lesson and by relating the simulation to what you have personally experienced in the legislature.



Posted 4/2/04

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