Phoenix Schools Implement District-Wide Participatory Budgeting
Participatory budgeting is used around the world to empower regular citizens to identify, discuss, and make decisions about public spending projects. In Phoenix this process has been used by individual schools to actively engage students in the financial decision-making process, where students have historically not had much influence. In 2017, Phoenix’s Union High School District implemented this concept on a larger scale, introducing a district-wide opportunity for participatory budgeting.
In Phoenix, AZ, five high schools partnered with city officials, local nonprofits and community organizers to implement a pilot participatory budgeting program. The program was designed to be a student-driven process to create and decide on the budget for school improvement projects. Students spent the first six months brainstorming potential projects, with each high school handling this phase differently. Some schools formed student committees in classrooms or in the student government to conceptualize projects. Other schools utilized an online platform to collect ideas.
After brainstorming the students developed formalized plans. These proposals were then voted on. The voting period lasted a week. During this period, students had the opportunity to use real voting machines provided by the local election commission. Once the proposals were selected, the school district allocated the budget to fund the winning school improvement projects.
In partnership with the Participatory Budgeting Project:
Program Coordinator, Civic Health Initiatives
Center for the Future of Arizona