Participatory Budgeting in Schools

Schools and school districts in the U.S. and internationally have used participatory budgeting (PB) to engage students, parents, and educators in deciding which school programs and improvements to fund using a portion of the school budget.

In 2013, the first high school-based PB process in the U.S. began at Bioscience High School in Phoenix, Arizona. In the 2016-17 school year, the Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD) launched the first school PB process in the U.S. to use district-wide funds, beginning with five public high schools and intended to expand across the district in future years.


Discussion among high school teams resulted in their commitments to creating student-driven PB processes that will develop student leadership, magnify student voice, involve entire schools in meaningful and transparent experiences, and build healthy and respectful relationships between students, teachers, and parents.


So, what’s the problem with—and potential for—school budgets?

Schools and school districts operate large and complex budgets, often with little participation from the students and community members they serve. Schools have used PB around the world to engage students, parents, teachers, and community members in deciding which school programs and improvements to fund. School PB builds understanding of school budgets, provides leadership development for students, directs funds to pressing needs and innovative ideas, and helps students learn democracy and active citizenship by doing it.

How does school PB impact student learning and development?

  • Increased ability to work collaboratively.
  • Research, interviewing, and surveying skills.
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking skills.
  • Public presentation skills.
  • Increased awareness of community needs and their role in addressing those needs.
  • Understanding of budgeting and basic budgeting skills.
  • Understanding of ways to participate in the community and government.
  • Increased concern about the welfare of others and sense of social responsibility.

What impacts does school PB have on school communities?

  • As students, parents, and educators learn democracy by doing it, they become more active and democratic citizens and gain a greater understanding of complex school issues and needs.
  • When school community members feel like they have a say in school decisions, they invest more time and energy in the school and cultivate stronger school communities. Democratic dialogue between students, teachers, parents, and staff brings the school community closer together.
  • As a result of engaging school community members in budgeting, schools develop more innovative and effective spending. Community members have valuable insider knowledge about school needs and new ideas for how to address these needs.

Sound like something that could strengthen your school?
Wondering how to start?

In response to increasing interest in School PB, PBP developed a free guide to PB in schools with 18 lesson plans and six worksheets—which walk through planning, idea collection, proposal development, voting, and implementation—to help teachers bring PB into their classrooms. Earlier this summer, PBP hosted a free webinar to review the Guide’s content and to support educators in learning how to use tools that strengthen the school community, cultivate collaboration, public speaking, and research skills, and teach democracy by doing it.

Take the first step towards introducing PB in your school by downloading our free guide!

Looking for more in-depth support from PBP?

Direct inquiries about working with PBP to launch PB in your school to Ashley Brennan at ashley (at) participatorybudgeting (dot) org.