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Shutdown, Again?

Facing yet another shutdown and endless questions in class, it is time to research shutdowns.  Just the thought of all those questions is enough to send any teacher into a tailspin.  Putting shutdowns into perspective appears to be the best way to control the chatter.  A brief survey of the history of shutdowns indicates that there have been 21 since the Congressional Budget Act of 1974.  The act moved the fiscal year from July 1 to October 1. This allows Congress time to evaluate the Presidential Budget and discretionary spending, and it also created the House and Senate Budget committee along with the Congressional Budget Office.  However it was not until the 1980s when President Carter requested information from his Attorney General Benjamin Civiletti about the impact of funding that true shutdowns became a reality.  Civiletti wrote a series of opinions that argued that if funding lapse or experienced a gap it necessitated a full or partial shutdown.


 The shutdowns themselves offer vast insight into how our government functions, as well as offering insight into our politics and history.  Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case PBS provided a chart worth thousands of words.  The chart briefly highlights each of the shutdowns, their causes as well as results and is perfect for student analysis. 


Check out the chart below and data below, it provides a quick, yet interesting analysis:


shutdown-chart2-701x1024 large file.png

  • Shutdowns by political party:
    • Republicans 11
    • Democrats 10


  • Shutdowns by president:
    • Ford – 1
    • Carter – 5
    • Reagan – 8
    • George H. W. Bush – 1
    • Clinton – 2
    • Obama – 1
    • Trump – 1 and counting
  • Only 7 resulted in a furlough or real shutdown.
  • Causes include:
    • Defense 6
    • Government Spending 5
    • Abortion 4
    • Healthcare 4
    • and one political fundraiser barbecue at the White House.
  • The majority (16) ended with a short-term funding bill.

Putting shutdowns into context can help students analyze past and present events and create a great class discussion.  How can you use the chart above?  How will you teach about shutdowns?  Join the conversation below.



How the Government Shutdown Compared to Every Other Shutdown Since 1976, PBS

Past Government Shutdowns: Key Resources, Congressional Research Service