Participatory Budgeting in Schools

Schools, school districts, and colleges in the U.S., Canada, and around the world are using participatory budgeting (PB) to engage students, parents, educators, and administrators in deciding which school programs and improvements to fund using a portion of the school budget.

School PB processes develop student leadership, magnify student and parent voice, involve entire schools in meaningful and transparent experiences, and build healthy relationships across school communities.

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A movement for democracy in schools is growing!

Participatory budgeting is happening in every level of schooling in North America — from elementary school through to college!

  • Elementary schools, like P.S. 139 in Brooklyn, New York, are using participatory budgeting with students AND their families. As a diverse school where a majority of families speak a language aside from English at home, PB has been an effective tool for increasing family involvement in the Parent Association.
  • PB in high schools is expanding to entire districts, like the Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD) in Arizona, which launched the first PB process in the U.S. using district-wide funds. Phoenix students have been thrilled with the chance to get involved in school decision-making… and they even had the opportunity to experience voting on real voting machines, through a collaboration with the local County Elections Department!
  • In college-based PB, like at Brooklyn College, part of the City University of New York (CUNY) system in NYC, students are allocating a portion of student government funds and other school fees. PB has already expanded to two additional CUNY colleges and students are now working on a campaign to expand PB CUNY-wide to support greater fiscal transparency and student empowerment.

How does PB impact student learning and development?

PB in school builds understanding of school budgets, provides leadership development for students, directs funds to pressing needs and innovative ideas, and helps students learn democracy and civics  in action:

  • 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.
  • Real-life budgeting skills.
  • Understanding of ways to participate in the community and government.
  • Increased concern about the welfare of others and sense of social responsibility.


How does PB impact broader school communities?

  • 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.
  • As students, parents, and educators learn democracy by doing it, they become more active community members and are motivated to become more engaged within their school and beyond.

Sound like something that could strengthen your school?

Wondering how to start?

In response to increasing interest, PBP developed a free Guide to PB in Schools to help teachers, administrators, students and parents bring PB into their schools. The Guide’s 18 lesson plans and 6 worksheets walk through planning, idea collection, proposal development, voting, and funded project implementation. In 2018, PBP hosted a free webinar with educators and students from Phoenix and Philadelphia to share how they’re using PB to strengthen their school communities, to cultivate collaboration, public speaking, and research skills, and to teach democracy in action.


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

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.

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