Phoenix schools are making history AGAIN with PB

This is Democracy Made by You

“We’re here to make history!” exclaimed Shari Davis, PBP Director of Strategic Initiatives, to a room full of students, teachers, principals, district administration, and sunshine. Three years ago, the first high school-based PB process in the U.S. began at Bioscience High School in Phoenix, Arizona. This year, the Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD) is launching 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.

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On September 24th, PBP hosted a PB 101 Training for more than 60 high school students, teachers, principals, and PUHSD staff. The training introduced participants to PB by inviting them to take part in a mock PB process that began with idea collection and culminated in a mock vote.

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After learning PB by doing it, trained facilitators worked with teams of students, teachers, and principals from each of the five high schools to begin planning individual PB processes; each team discussed goals for their process, which model of school PB to use, who could participate in each phase of PB, and how they would begin collecting ideas.

In what we could call a (brain)storm in the desert, 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.

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The models of school PB selected by each team ranged from steering committees made of single classrooms to committees led by student government and existing clubs. Some schools began planning for large idea collection assemblies involving the entire student body; others discussed utilizing advisory periods and online forms to collect project ideas. Regardless of specific strategies, all schools prioritized plans to include students that don’t often engage in school processes.

In a concluding activity, students and teachers were asked to share one word to describe how they felt at the start of the workshop and one word to describe how they felt at the end. Many shared pairs of words that expressed feeling nervous, unsure, confused, or tired when they arrived and feeling excited, energized, intrigued, and supported as they left. A group of teachers said they looked forward to continuing to connect across school teams to learn from and support one another in launching school PB. After participating in the mock PB process, one freshman student described what he hoped PB would accomplish at his school: “I’d like to see PB help other shy freshmen like me gain confidence and come to have a voice in our school community.”

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

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.

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 and watching our webinar!

You’re invited to join the movement!

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It starts with you! Join the Phoenix Union High School District, Overfelt High School, the MET High School, Sullivan High School, and others in a growing movement for school PB. PBP welcomes you to take the first step in bringing your school community closer and educating your students in an engaging democratic process by downloading our free Guide, watching our Webinar, and centering your students as leaders in planning this student-driven participatory process.

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@participatorybudgeting.org.

About Ashley Brennan

Ashley transforms public school systems so that they empower students with real power over the real money that impacts their lives. She strengthens local civic engagement efforts across North America by supporting a Network of civic leaders and co-coordinating convenings to connect government officials, researchers, young people, and community leaders. To elevate this work, and the work of her team, Ashley manages PBP’s communications and curates how we tell our stories.