Arizona students "learn democracy by doing" as part of school participatory budgeting initiative - AZEdNews
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Arizona students “learn democracy by doing” as part of school participatory budgeting initiative


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  • Luke Simmons   |   Center for the Future of Arizona

Students With A Participatory Budgeting Banner. Photo Courtesy Center For The Future Of Arizona

During February and March, more than 40,000 students across 34 school campuses will participate in voting days as part of the Center for the Future of Arizona’s Participatory Budgeting (PB) initiative.

Through the PB process, students directly decide how district funds are used to improve their school communities.

In addition to providing real voting equipment for their campus vote days, the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office and local voter engagement organizations will provide eligible students the opportunity to register to vote in future Arizona elections. 

To date, 3,000 students have been registered through PB – a number that is expected to double during this year’s voting period.  

Arizona students "learn democracy by doing" as part of school participatory budgeting initiative participatorybudgetinghands-1024x538
participatory budgeting hands

Students organize and lead the PB voting process on their campuses with the support of teachers, district administrators, community organizations, and CFA staff.  

Students cultivate ideas, develop proposals, present their ideas, and vote to fund projects that build stronger school communities. The process develops students’ critical thinking, communication, problem-solving skills, and agency.

Since the program’s pilot in 2016 with 5 Phoenix Union High School District campuses, PB has expanded to engage 40,000 students in 4 school districts across the state.

Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend a portion of the public budget. PB is currently taking place in more than 7,500 places across the globe at the municipal, state, and national level.

PB gives ordinary people real power over real money, empowers community voice, sheds light on community needs and provides a space for equitable public spending.

In partnership with the Participatory Budgeting Project (PBP), Phoenix Union High School District (PXU) was the first district in the U.S. to implement the PB process in a school setting. Given the promising impact of the pilot, PXU has scaled PB from 5 schools to district-wide expansion.

CFA has facilitated expansion of the model in school districts in Arizona as a promising tool to prepare young people to be active, informed, and engaged participants in civic life.