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Brown awards $1.25 million to library, participatory budgeting projects in Providence public schools

Brown awards $1.25 million to library, participatory budgeting projects in Providence public schools

Like the library project, the second new Fund-supported project emanated from an existing partnership between scholars at the University and educators at K-12 schools.

Jonathan Collins, an assistant professor of political science, public policy and education at Brown, has already worked several times with area schools on projects that demonstrate the power of “participatory budgeting” — a democratic process that asks community members to decide how to spend allocated money.

Since Fall 2021, Collins has facilitated several participatory budgeting projects at a Providence middle school, where students have decided to steer funds toward bathroom renovations, the development of a culinary arts class and the creation of a seasoning station inside the cafeteria. In Summer 2021, Collins and his research team worked with the school district in Central Falls, R.I., on a participatory budgeting project called Voces Con Poder (voices with power), facilitating a process that positioned community members to decide how to allocate $100,000. The community ultimately chose to fund after-school extracurricular programs and to create an app to improve communications between students, parents, teachers and staff about school safety concerns. 

With $100,000 from the Fund, Collins will now facilitate another participatory-budgeting project — this time bringing about 250 students from Nathanael Greene Middle School to the University to decide how to invest that money in schools across PPSD.

“My previous work has shown me that a viable  pathway to creating a school system kids deserve is to ask the kids what that looks like,” Collins said. “These middle school students have the maturity and intellectual ability to give us that kind of information. It’s not our job to impose all the ideas on them — it’s our job to augment the kids’ ability to solve problems.”