Connecticut Empowers High School Students to Steer the Use of Federal Funds

The Connecticut Department of Education created its Voice4Change program to empower high school students across the state to propose and vote on how more than $1.5 million in federal relief funds will be invested to reimagine Connecticut’s schools. Students in participating districts could submit proposals outlining how they would spend $20,000 in their school. Proposals deemed eligible to receive funds were ultimately voted on by their high school peers. Voice4Change represented 45 districts, 80 schools, and over 60,000 students.

We are spotlighting this because it was an innovative way to encourage student participation in how federal funds are used to drive educational improvement in the state.

Reviewer Analysis

Jocelyn Pickford

This is a highly innovative way to encourage student voice and ownership of interventions designed to impact their success.

The Rural Alliance

Great ideas come from young and old. Looking forward to learning from this reimagine program.

Leslie Villegas

It would be helpful to know the demographics of the students involved in this to see if they are representative of the student body and inclusive or linguistically diverse students.


We fully support opportunities for students to meaningfully be involved in the design, decision-making, and implementation of budgets and initiatives. This looks like an excellent way for student voice to be centered and impactful.


We appreciate Connecticut’s active centering of student voices in the process of deciding how to spend the funds. Letting students submit proposals and employing a democratic process to select winning ideas ensures that the relief funds will be spent in ways approved by the students themselves.

New Leaders

This is an innovative approach to student engagement. It creates opportunities for student voice and agency to lead meaningful action in line with the needs of the school community. How does the process elevate and include voices that have been historically marginalized? What structures are in place for accountability once funds have been allocated?

The Bush Center

This is a promising practice of student engagement in resource allocation.

National Parents Union

The student-led proposals are the main key here for success. I would love to see their plans and know how they will pilot students' ideas and for how long.

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