Center for the Future of Arizona awarded $110,000 to expand civic engagement initiative across all schools in Phoenix Union High School District

Posted on October 18, 2017 • Category: Center for the Future of Arizona

Participatory Budgeting initiative at PUHSD empowers students to fund their top priorities, imparts life-long citizenship skills

Phoenix IDA, in partnership with Arizona Community Foundation (ACF), today announced a $110,000 grant award to the Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) in support of its Participatory Budgeting initiative and partnership expansion with Phoenix Union High School District (PUHSD).

“The progress of ‘making decisions about funding’ that PUHSD students are learning in Participatory Budgeting is relevant in terms of the real-life challenges faced in government,” said Juan Salgado, Executive Director, Phoenix IDA.

Participatory Budgeting was launched at PUHSD this year through a partnership between CFA, PUHSD, the Maricopa County Office of the Recorder, and the Participatory Budgeting Project, with the active engagement of students and teachers within the district.

PUHSD is the first district in the U.S. to implement the Participatory Budgeting process using districtwide funds. Piloted with five public high schools in early 2017, the initiative is expected to expand districtwide and will affect more than 27,000 students by 2018.

Participatory Budgeting at PUHSD is designed to encourage students to “learn democracy by doing democracy.” Throughout the school year, students brainstorm ideas for school improvement projects and develop these ideas into full proposals. Students select winning projects by casting votes at each campus with more than $55,000 in district funds available for allocation.

“Developing young people who are engaged in civic life begins by supporting a robust educational experience inclusive of academics and citizenship skills,” said Lattie F. Coor, Chairman and CEO, Center for the Future of Arizona. “Our partnership with Phoenix Union in Participatory Budgeting is part of a model-setting initiative that is helping students acquire the skills necessary to become leaders who can identify and solve problems in our communities.”

Students at Bioscience, Carl Hayden, Central, Franklin Police and Fire, and Phoenix Coding Academy were part of the inaugural cohort of schools when the Participatory Budgeting initiative began at PUHSD in March 2017 and has since expanded to 10 high schools. All schools districtwide are expected to participate by 2018.

“The impact that the PB experience is having on students and our educational community at Phoenix Union can’t be understated,” said Dr. Chad E. Gestson, Superintendent, PUHSD. “The initiative is helping us to create an environment that nurtures leadership in our students, promotes civic engagement and builds community throughout every school within our district.”

“ACF is proud to be a partner with the Phoenix IDA in rolling out the Participatory Budgeting initiative within the Phoenix Union High School District,” said Steve Seleznow, President and CEO, Arizona Community Foundation. “Students will get to engage in the challenges faced by schools and government funding and learn how to be good civic minded decision-makers.”

What is PB?

Participatory Budgeting is a new approach for building stronger school communities and developing students who are more informed, empowered and engaged in civic life.

The process consists of five steps led by students with the support of teachers and the community. Student leaders and their teams:

  • Collect input and ideas from the student body
  • Transform ideas into proposals by conducting research on costs and feasibility
  • Present proposals to fellow students
  • Campaign for votes from the full student body to select top proposals, and
  • Announce winning improvement projects and how they will be funded and implemented on campuses


About the Phoenix IDA

The Phoenix IDA is an entrepreneurial nonprofit that draws upon its decades of experience and proven record of accomplishments to support community and economic development through access to capital. The Phoenix IDA improves the community through multiple strategies such as bond financing, investments, and down payment assistance to advance homeownership. The organization’s primary goal is to positively impact vulnerable populations and underserved communities. Established in 1981, the Phoenix IDA is a self-sustaining organization governed by a nine-member Board of Directors. For additional information, please visit


About Arizona Community Foundation

Established in 1978, the Arizona Community Foundation is a statewide family of charitable funds supported by thousands of Arizonans. With five regional offices serving communities across Arizona, ACF is among the top 30 community foundations in the nation with more than $855 million in trust and endowment assets, and is certified under the National Standards for U.S. Community Foundations. Last year, ACF and its affiliates awarded more than $55 million in grants and scholarship funding to some 3,500 nonprofit organizations, schools, and government agencies. More information is available at



For over 100 years, and spanning three centuries, Phoenix Union High School District has served the educational needs of the city. Beginning in 1895 with four classrooms and 90 students, the District has mirrored the mercurial growth of Phoenix. Today, over 27,000 students attend 11 comprehensive high schools three small specialty schools and three alternative schools. The district covers a 220-square mile area, fed by 13 elementary districts, making it one of the largest secondary school districts in the nation.


About the Center for the Future of Arizona

The Center for the Future of Arizona (CFA) is helping define and shape Arizona’s future through an action-oriented agenda that focuses on issues critical to the state. More than a think tank, CFA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit “do tank” that combines research with collaborative partnerships and initiatives that drive the state’s economic prosperity, quality of life and civic health, and create a better future for all Arizonans.

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