We launched version 2.0 of the Federal Priorities Database a year ago. Since that time, we've been answering your questions, hearing your feedback, and keeping the information current. But we've also been thinking about what's next, and we've hatched a project called Backyard Budget.
We want to provide more localized data, more visualizations, and more access. We plan to address this last goal by going mobile.
The mobile piece of Backyard Budget will bring democracy to Americans’ fingertips by making federal spending data available at the hyper-local level through a mobile app. It will be a prime resource for citizens and journalists alike – anyone who seeks to use information to engage with and understand the key budget and policy decisions of our time.
Journalists will use Backyard Budget to cover local stories about federal funding in their communities. For example, a journalist in Miami doing a field visit at an early childhood center facing budget cuts could use Backyard Budget to delve into information about Head Start. Using the mobile app’s search tool, the journalist would discover that federal funding for Head Start in Miami increased by only four percent between 2010/2011 and 2011/2012, as compared to a 15 percent increase statewide. The journalist could investigate this trend further by delving into Backyard Budget’s mobile-optimized database of census indicators, such as poverty level, number of households with children, and pre-school enrollment rates – unearthing some compelling information about how federal funding affects Miami children.
Community members will leverage Backyard Budget’s datasets on behalf of the issues they support. An organization focused on improving the public education system in Florida could use Backyard Budget to identify a need for additional funding for special education and safe and drug-free schools programs. During a visit with a legislator or a community outreach meeting, staff from that organization could use their mobile devices to pull data from Backyard Budget. They would find out that Florida’s funding from the Office of Special Education decreased .3 percent between 2010/2011 and 2011/2012, and that there was no additional funding allocated for the Safe and Drug-Free Schools program in Florida’s three metropolitan divisions. They could also use Backyard Budget’s Take Action tool to send messages via mobile device to Congress or the media expressing support for increased federal education funding.
Students, who overwhelmingly use their mobile devices to obtain information, will access Backyard Budget to understand opportunities for federal support to attend college. Federal education funding includes the Pell Grant program and the federal work-study program, as well as federal student loans. Backyard Budget data shows that, in Florida, Pell Grants increased by 32 percent in 2011/2012, but funding for the federal work study program declined by six percent. A student in Miami would discover that federal student loans to that city decreased by five percent in 2011/2012, and that Florida’s three metropolitan divisions (Miami, West Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale) saw a combined decrease of 72 percent in federal direct student loans. Using Backyard Budget, a student could share that information with friends via social networking sites to get more youth voices engaged with budget decisions around federal funding for college.
In these situations and many others, Backyard Budget is the federal budget for the rest of us – a tool that shows how federal spending affects our lives and communities, compares actual spending against our own priorities as citizens, and makes the budget engaging, interactive, and social…even fun.