In the spring semester of 2018, high school students at three Chicago Public Schools took part in a participatory budgeting process as part of their civics class. The result? After the process was over, more than 80% of evaluation survey respondents said that they felt like they had the power to influence their communities or school, that people working together can solve community problems better than people working alone, and that they had a better understanding of needs in their community and school. Moreover, because of these students’ participation and voting, schools will be able to establish a safe space for students, set up a school spirit store, pay for bathroom repairs, and beautify a cafeteria. The Participatory Budgeting in Schools pilot program—rolled out by PB Chicago, an initiative of UIC’s Great Cities Institute in collaboration with Our City Our Voice, together with Chicago Public Schools—revealed these and other overwhelmingly positive results.
This evaluation report, Citizens of the Future, prepared by the Great Cities Institute, is based on various data from each participating CPS school in the 2017–18 school year—Al Raby High School, in the East Garfield Park community area; Hyde Park Academy, in Woodlawn; and Steinmetz College Prep, in Belmont Cragin—as well as interviews with teachers who led the process in their classroom, and questionnaires filled out by students in those classrooms. The primary goals of the evaluation were to document the implementation costs and social and educational benefits of the pilot; to determine what students learned as a result of their participation; and to provide results so that CPS, PB Chicago, and other stakeholders can recommend changes to further improve the program as implemented in schools.