For Teachers: A Lesson Plan On Personal Finance And Prison
Life is worlds apart on $20,000 per year or $90,000. This educational resource for teachers — a lesson plan and student worksheet — drives home that reality for students.
KERA Education intern Elroy Johnson IV — he’s also an 8th grade history teacher at Rusk Middle School in Dallas — created this plan for fellow educators, drawing on the financial life story of KERA News story subject Marc Wilson.
Before serving a seven-year sentence for drug trafficking, he was a nurse who made almost $90,000 a year, with benefits. He had a car, a house and $20,000 in savings. He had his family solidly situated in the middle class. Now that he’s out of prison, he has a $12 per hour job, no benefits and a mountain of debt.
Students in 8th through 12th grades will learn two things: how lifestyles vary on two vastly different annual salaries; and how choices can impact a person’s finances.
1. Students will compare and contrast the lifestyles of a high-income salary and a low-income salary.
2. Students will understand how one decision may have a lifelong impact.
Lesson Plan and Worksheet summary
Using Chapter 5 of our Price of Prison series as an anchor — it’s our first of three stories about Marc Wilson — students will get nitty-gritty with the numbers and vocabulary of monthly budgeting.
» They’ll work out life on two different salaries
You’ll have students use an online salary calculator to determine how much tax will be deducted from two very different salary scenarios: $20,000 per year and $90,000 per year.
When they learn what their monthly take-home pay is for each salary scenario, they’ll create budgets for each:
» They’ll expand their vocabulary
Names and terms that students will look up and become familiar with include:
- Net pay
- Six figures
- Withholding taxes
- Child support
- Texas Innocence Project
- Correctional officer
- VA (Veterans Affairs) Hospital
- Public defender
- Prison Policy Initiative
» They’ll answer questions
The worksheet will ask comprehension and reflection questions about Marc Wilson’s story, the consequences of his choices and students’ discoveries from the budgeting exercise. Questions will include:
- What happened to Marc Wilson’s nursing license?
- What did he say a “comfortable” lifestyle means to him now?
- If your budget stayed the same for the $20,000 salary job, in what areas could you decrease your spending?
- What were the unintended consequences of drug trafficking for Marc Wilson?
- In what ways do you think his life might be different today if he hadn’t served time in prison?
- How do you think his lack of financial stability may have affected his family? Give examples.
» They’ll go deeper with these exercises
- Using your technology, look up one organization that helps ex-offenders in the journey to finding jobs and houses. What is the name of the organization and what is the mission of the organization?
- Also using your technology, check out a job search tool for ex-offenders. List five new things you have learned about employment searches after prison.
- Also using your technology, look up what types of jobs are often not available to those with criminal backgrounds. List three.
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