Education + Budgets and Taxes


Welcome to Talking about Education + Budgets and Taxes, featuring SWAMPED!—a compendium of research and resources on how Americans think about two important issue topics: the role of budgets and taxes, and how to increase public support for policies and programs that support reforms to improve America’s educational system.

Based on a decade of FrameWorks’ research and field practice on budgets and taxes and education, this toolkit provides supplemental application materials, guides, and resources to front-line communicators for deploying recommended reframe strategies to shift the public conversation about both education reform and the role of budgets and taxes. It is complemented by an interactive, hands-on game, called SWAMPED!, designed to help experts and advocates improve and/or refine their framing practice in ways that combine reframing recommendations for both budgets and taxes and education issue areas.

FrameWorks’ research demonstrates that effective communications can help activate the public’s thinking and engagement with issues as complex as budgets and taxes and the American education system. Here, we demonstrate how an empirically based communications strategy can bolster understanding about these two topic areas in tandem: the American education system and the fiscal, state, and federal resources needed to improve it. By effectively explaining the role of budgets and taxes in education reform, particularly the ways the successful negotiation of fiscal government policies can prepare our country for the future, we demonstrate how the reform narrative benefits from the inclusion of these two relevant issue areas.

The following research and resources on Education + Budgets and Taxes, including the game SWAMPED!, were developed by the FrameWorks Institute for The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Message Brief

Education meets Budgets and Taxes, featuring SWAMPED!: A Message Brief
This new Message Brief combines and summarizes research findings from FrameWorks’ research on both budgets and taxes and education. In addition, it provides front-line communicators with a communications map for improving the public’s understanding of the linked topics of budgets and taxes in education reform, and for shifting support for education policy alternatives.


This section provides a variety of framing tools intended to help advocates understand and apply the research findings and recommendations that include budgets and taxes when also talking about education reform and policy initiatives.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
This document highlights a few common questions about budgets and taxes and education reform, with examples of effective and less-effective responses to each.

Key Framing Guides

Navigating the Swamp
This is a graphic representation of the “swamp” of dominant patterns of the public’s thinking about the role of government budgets and taxes in education reform. This visual serves as a reminder of the already existing themes in public thinking that front-line communicators must address.

Basic Message Template
This template is an outline of a message frame for communicating about the role of budgets and taxes as an integral part of meaningful education reform efforts. The Talking Points and FAQs also in this toolkit show a variety of ways to apply this basic message template.



Framing Education and Education Reform: A FrameWorks MessageMemo
This interpretive piece recounts findings from a two-year inquiry into American thinking about education more generally and education reform. As such, it provides a useful backdrop to this toolkit and offers several frame elements – e.g., values and metaphors – to further communications about teachers and teachers’ unions.

How to Talk About Budgets and Taxes: A FrameWorks MessageMemo
This MessageMemo summarizes the findings from our research and provides advocates with a communications map for improving the public's understanding of the linked topics of budgets and taxes, and for shifting attitudes and support for policy alternatives.

Trigger Videos

The Budgets and Taxes Trigger Video
This video is a compilation of On-The-Street Interviews that show what dangers lurk in the "swamp" of cultural models, and what prevents people from seeing how responsible budgets ensure the well being of communities and how taxes support those budgets. The video goes on to show advocates how the value Prevention and the explanatory metaphor Forward Exchange help people see how budgets and taxes are related, and why they are an important part of a well functioning society. As such, it serves as a useful primer for the array of research reports that inform it.

The Education Trigger Video
This video serves as an overview of the explanatory metaphors, developed and tested to help the public better understand the American education system and how to reform it.

Research Reports

A complete list of all research reports specific to the two topic issues, including those that use cognitive interviews, media content analyses, experimental surveys, and focus groups, can be found on FrameWorks’ Budgets and Taxes and Education respective web pages.

Play Swamped! The Game

A new, interactive game tool that shows you how to take control of your messaging strategy through short, interactive exercises that focus on the most popular do’s and don’ts framers can make when linking education messaging goals to government, fiscal policies.

screenshots of swamped

FrameWorks Institute

  Updated: 02/06/15