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One of the ideals underpinning public education in the United has been that of educating young people to become engaged democratic citizens. Civics courses have been the main, and sometimes only, sign of public schools attending to their civic mission. An opportunity to offer citizenship education through the experience of democratic governance manifests itself through the implementation of school participatory budgeting. Though promising, the use of school participatory budgeting in the United States is relatively new. The literature is sparse and issues of process design as well as research methodology remain unexplored.
School participatory budgeting has the potential, at least, to offer students an opportunity to experience deliberative democratic decision-making and thus enhance those capabilities critical for effective citizenship. More ambitiously, school participatory budgeting presents an opportunity to delicately and steadily transform school governance to give real decision-making power to students.
The four stand-alone articles that make up this dissertation are four facets of a single case study on the first large-scale instance of school participatory budgeting in the United States. They began with the question: What were the accomplishments and challenges of school participatory budgeting in a large secondary school district in the Southwestern United States in its initial implementation?
This question was interpreted and answered differently in each article. The first article examines aspects of process design and how participatory budgeting might contribute not only to citizenship learning but also the expansion of student voice. The experiences of students, in the second article, and those of teachers and administrators, in the third article, are explored through analysis of interview data. The final article addresses this question by drawing on my own experience of implementing school participatory budgeting using analytic autoethnography. This dissertation presents school participatory budgeting from multiple perspectives and recommends more empirical research on the structure of the process before, during, and after implementation.
This dissertation examines this approach to citizenship learning dynamically by using various methodologies and bringing together the literature on student voice, citizenship learning, participatory budgeting, and curriculum studies in order to enrich the discussions and provide actionable knowledge for advocates and practitioners.
Does school participatory budgeting (SPB) increase students’ political efficacy? SPB, which is implemented in thousands of schools around the world, is a democratic process of deliberation and decision-making in which students determine how to spend a portion of the school’s budget. We examined the impact of SPB on political efficacy in one middle school in Arizona. Our participants’ (n = 28) responses on survey items designed to measure self-perceived growth in political efficacy indicated a large effect size (Cohen’s d = 1.46), suggesting that SPB is an effective approach to civic pedagogy, with promising prospects for developing students’ political efficacy.
An increase of attention towards our nation’s civic participation downturn has brought the concept of civic engagement to the forefront of young people’s lives. Traditional teaching of long-standing democratic processes via education institutes have begun to evolve in how youth can participate civically, impacting social change within their communities. Civics instruction and learning implemented through a progressive pedagogical approach encompasses a greater focus on student-centered instruction, brings relevance to national history, as well as the historical ideals of democracy, and transposes this knowledge unto communities of today. Thus, youth may no longer be considered passive agents within the realm of social change, as they can experience empowerment when working with educators and the greater community. Current civic participation among young people across the United States, however, seems to be paving the way for civic disengagement. Drawing on the progressive education literature and statistical data on civic engagement and youth (particularly in the U. S. and Arizona), this study addresses the need for a civics-based progressive educational shift within the Arizona school system and other educational institutions. In addition to further outlining the need to cultivate civic engagement pedagogies amongst youth today, this thesis explores the construct of Arizona’s Excellence in Civic Engagement Program, which the Arizona Department of Education, in partnership with various community organizations, has established and implemented as a research-based, free standing (separate from state standards) youth civic engagement program. Three participating schools’ program applications are analyzed in regard to the inclusion of democratic ideals and themes, including how these schools enable students to become civically engaged, both within the school setting and greater community. I argue that for the future of this state, nation, and world, young people must be exposed to and engaged with participative opportunities and the civic education interconnectivity in their communities. This study examines the civics-based, progressive education themes needed in schools and educational institutions in order to empower Arizona’s youth and increase efforts to impact social change through civic education.