Power to the...students
Apr 11, 2017 | 2664 views | 0 0 comments | 295 295 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Over the past two weeks, students in Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley's district in Queens had the rare chance to see real democracy in action.

It wasn't voting for the student council or a symbolic vote as to who they think the next president should be, but a real chance to spend $100,000 to better their school.

The results were incredible, with schools regularly getting over 80 percent participation. Some even cracked the 90-percent mark. Imagine a local election getting that type of engagement?

When participatory budgeting came to New York City, it was a great idea because it engaged the community the way local government is supposed to. But often schools were left behind, with civic organizations and other groups mobilizing to support more attractive projects like park upgrades or shuttle buses.

Bringing the process into the schools was a brilliant idea by Crowley, not only because it brings some much needed funds into the schools, but really gave the students an important lesson in civics.

One of the biggest issues with the American election system is voter turnout. Teaching kids the value of voting early on is a great way to begin addressing that. Especially after such a divisive election, it's important for kids to see the voting process isn't all just partisan fighting.

From a resident's perspective, it's exactly the type of transparency you want to see from your elected officials. You see exactly where and to whom your money is going.

Like participatory budgeting, it's something that should spread quickly. Each member of the City Council gets a $5 million discretionary budget so it's not like money is being pulled from important services. This is the community's money to spend.

Every single resident should be contacting their council person this week and asking if they can do something similar for the schools in their district.

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