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School Participatory Budgeting in Arizona

Why it matters

We need strong and vibrant civic health to move forward on solving problems and building a bright future for our state. Evidence and experience have shown that the health of our democracy and civic life is linked to our broader individual and community well-being in meaningful ways. We know that more connected communities are more economically resilient, individuals who participate in civic life have greater access to opportunity and well-being, and policies are more responsive when everyone is engaged. Driven by this deep commitment to civic health, CFA’s School Participatory Budgeting (SPB) program is an innovative approach to equipping, engaging, and empowering our rising generation to be active and informed participants in civic life.

How it works

SPB in Arizona is an innovative civic learning tool designed to improve student agency, collaboration and critical-thinking skills and prepare young people to be active, informed, and engaged participants in civic life for the long-term. Students “learn democracy by doing” through a process of participating in SPB steering committees on campus, developing proposals, and voting to fund improvement projects that build stronger school communities.

The school model stems from the widely adopted municipal Participatory Budgeting (PB) model - a democratic process in which community members decide how to spend a portion of the public budget.

CFA provides training and support to our partners to implement a year-long process, led by students working alongside their teachers and the community. Students work together through a process of curating ideas, developing proposals, and participating in a campus-wide vote that educates students on real electoral processes.

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Our impact

  • Engaged 50,000 students across 39 campuses in 5 school districts
  • Registered 4500+ students to vote through Vote Day partnerships with local elections officials and voter engagement organizations
  • Encouraged $455,000 public dollars invested in 65 student-developed school improvement projects
  • Engaged 750+ students in SPB Steering Committees
  • Trained 60+ educators to facilitate & implement SPB at their schools
  • Empowers students to discover their agency and collective voice
  • Emboldens students in decision-making processes
  • Fortifies youth-adult partnerships
  • Builds critical thinking and communication skills
  • Creates meaningful solutions to everyday problems
  • Mirrors actual voting processes and prepares young people to be lifelong civic participants

Our Partners

District Partners

  • Chandler Unified School District
  • Mesa Public Schools
  • Phoenix Union High School District
  • Sunnyside Unified School District
  • Queen Creek Unified School District

Arizona Partners

  • Arizona State University Participatory Governance Initiative

National Partners

  • Participatory Budgeting Project

Key Funders

  • Arizona Developmental Disabilities Planning Council
  • The Steele Foundation


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