Signed into law by President Biden last month, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 offers an amazing opportunity for American schools. $123 billion has been earmarked for public school funding — the largest-ever federal investment in K-12 education.
We’re thrilled that our schools will have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make a variety of investments that will enable them to:
- Re-open safely
- Close equity gaps
- Address significant infrastructure challenges
However, we’re concerned that the leaders overseeing these vast sums of money will revert to traditional decision-making models that fail to engage the most important constituents in education reform: our children, the very students who stand to benefit.
Fortunately, we’ve got the perfect solution to the problem: The 1/10 of 1% Participatory Budgeting Manifesto:
We believe that 1/10 of 1% of the $123 billion earmarked for public school funding in the American Rescue Plan should be used to fund a Participatory Budgeting (PB) program in every public K-12 school in the U.S.
That’s enough to fund a $1,280 PB program in every school in the U.S.
Skeptical? Don’t be. This can work. Excited? You should be, because the impact would be extraordinary.
Let’s do the math
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there were 98,469 public schools in the U.S in 2017-18, which breaks down this way:
- 67,408 elementary schools
- 23,882 secondary schools
- 6,278 combined schools
- 901 schools not classified by grade span
1/10 of 1% of $123 billion is $123,000,000, enough to fund a $1,280 PB program in every school in the U.S. That’s more than enough for students to create meaningful change in their communities. And it’s enough that many schools would be able to leverage additional funding sources, such as PTAs, corporate social responsibility programs, or the school principal’s discretionary fund, to increase the amount allocated to students. It certainly moves us closer to our BHAG of getting $1K (or more) into 1M schools globally and supporting children as they invest $1B.
What might happen if every school implemented Participatory Budgeting?
While we can’t predict what the students will choose in their Participatory Budgeting program, we can confidently state the expected outcomes of this marvelous manifesto:
- We’d gain a treasure trove of data on actual student needs that could identify and prioritize subsequent investments.
- We’d transform the relationship between an entire generation of students and their government, at a time when trust is at an all-time low.
- We’d dramatically increase financial literacy and civic engagement, simultaneously accomplishing the goals of multiple administrations.
Could it work? Absolutely. We have the technology. And now, we’ll have the money. All we need is the will.