Inclusive School Participatory Budgeting

Project: Research project

Project Details


The Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) and Arizona State Universitys Participatory Governance Initiative (PGI) request funding to support a pilot project in a Phoenix High School to include students with disabilities in School Participatory Budgeting (School PB). Given the track record of School PB as a high-impact civic learning practice, the array of partners engaged with expertise in practice and evaluation, and the need for more civic learning opportunities for students with disabilities, the time is right for more inclusive practices in the school PB process. We propose to work closely with the Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD) to pilot an inclusive process in one campus that would more thoughtfully reach students with disabilities at different stages of the process (steering committee formation, idea collection, proposal development, and campus-wide vote). We would work closely with district and campus special education staff to make the most of their expertise and to engage their students directly in designing the process.
Participatory Budgeting (PB) is a democratic process of deliberation and decision-making over budget allocations that started in 1989 and is being implemented in over 7,000 cities around the world. School PB is a more recent phenomenon, and has been growing in Phoenix from one high school in 2014 to 15 in 2019. There are many School PB processes in the U.S. and other countries, but to the best of our knowledge, there is no school PB process anywhere that makes a conscious effort, both in design and implementation, to include students with disabilities. School PB educates students about citizen participation, self-governance and democratic engagement. In School PB, students learn democracy by doing through a process that builds stronger school communities and amplifies student voice. In doing so, students are empowered to as act as community problem-solvers and cultivating the skills and attitudes they need for lifelong active citizenship. The School PB process is typically organized in five steps: 1) students propose ideas to improve the school community; 2) students transform these ideas into viable proposals by conducting research on cost and feasibility; 3) students present proposals to fellow students; 4) full student body votes for top proposals; 5) winning projects are funded and implemented.
Research indicates that students who engage in civics curricular and extracurricular activities tend to score better than other students in civic duty, community involvement, political attentiveness, political efficacy, and other indicators of civic engagement. At the same time, research findings point out that people with disabilities have low levels of civic engagement, and that a combination of encouragement, support, and opportunities to participate can make a difference in political efficacy.

Given the early successes with PB in Schools in partnership with Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD), the partners see an opportunity to emphasize more inclusive practices for students with disabilities. PB in Schools currently engages 25,000 students in PUHSD and is slated for district-wide expansion by 2019-2020. With this growth underway, now is a perfect moment to pilot more inclusive practices and meaningful civic learning opportunity and develop more pathways to lifelong civic engagement.
An investment from the Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council would be instrumental in piloting the first-ever school-based inclusive Participatory Budgeting process for students with disabilities. This could generate meaningful impact for the students directly engaged, and develop a base of knowledge to be shared more widely throughout the field statewide and nationallywith potential for even greater scale and impact for the long-term.
Effective start/end date7/1/197/31/21


  • Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council (ADDPC): $110,000.00


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