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.