October 5, 2022

Participatory Budgeting Engages Everyone in Complex Decision-Making

Participatory Budgeting Engages Everyone in Complex Decision-Making

Among the many tasks school leaders tackle, budgeting is right up at the top in terms of complexity and thanklessness.

So why would members of the community at Dr. Quintin Shepherd’s public school district be jumping into the process willingly? Because, as he explains in a new piece in School Administrator magazine’s October issue, crowdsourcing budget decisions generates goodwill and gives stakeholders a sense of ownership.

Shepherd’s article outlines why he decided to use participatory budgeting to help set priorities for spending federal COVID-19relief funds, often known by the acronym ESSER. He believes it is “a mechanism to (1) establish equitable funding structures around learning, (2) establish new quality assurance frameworks, (3) foster community ownership of learning,(4) support courageous leadership and policymaking, and (5) cultivate public will and understanding for transformation.”

A democratic approach to a complex problem

In his book “The Secret to Transformational Leadership,” Shepherd explains that complex problems always have more than one right answer—and more than one path to get to any answer because the information that goes into them is not privileged; it’s accessible to anyone.

Budget decisions about using ESSER funds toward the goals of improving student learning and closing achievement gaps meet the criteria for a complex decision. Undertaking the process with teachers, students, and community members can be a daunting prospect, but Shepherd’s article includes strategies for building rapport ahead of large-scale projects like this and also offers specific tools that make crowdsourcing easier.

Read the full piece in the free online edition of School Administrator or look for it in the print edition.

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