Rhode Island School District Allocating Federal Relief Funds Using a Participatory Community Budgeting Process

Through a program called  “Voces Con Poder,” Central Falls School District designated $100,000 in federal relief funds toward a participatory budgeting process. Through the process, the district requested ideas from the community, had community “delegates curate and evaluate the submitted ideas, and then put those ideas to a vote by students and parents. Delegates received stipends and meals for their participation, and the district provided Spanish interpreters at every meeting. The district originally piloted this program in 2021 with $10,000 in federal money and scaled it up after the first year’s success.

We are spotlighting this because of the innovative way in which the district encouraged family engagement and helped ensure that federal relief funds are being used to meet the needs of the communities they are meant to reach. It is also noteworthy that the district chose to scale the program up after a successful first year.

Reviewer Analysis

The Education Trust

Including families in the participatory budgeting process is vital for effective family engagement and this program has a lot of potential for success. Families should actively have a voice and equal seat at the table with educators, and this process actively shares power with families. Not only does it give students and families power over budgeting, but it also helps them to build skill for participating in other district initiatives in the long term, for a more sustained investment and engagement with schools.

The Rural Alliance

An expanded pilot program involving family and community engagement to learn from.

Leslie Villegas

It is unclear whether this was purely an exercise or if the recommendations that came out of the process were actually implemented.


We fully support opportunities for community to participate in the budgeting process in an inclusive way. That makes it more likely for the decision-making to be strong and for there to be community buy-in.


We appreciate Central Falls School District’s active centering of community voices in the process of allocating these funds through participatory budgeting. Working closely with community stakeholders, applying a democratic process, ensuring accessibility through language interpretation and stipends, all ensure that the relief funds will be spent in ways the community values. We believe in deep, authentic community engagement and think the participatory budgeting process is a strong example of letting community members decide what’s best for their community.

New Leaders

This is an innovative approach to family engagement. It creates meaningful opportunities for school stakeholders to collaborate and take action in line with the needs of school - with potential for new ideas, practices, and approaches that are community driven. 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 idea for family / community engagement. I am curious, are students involved as well as parents?

Jocelyn Pickford

This opportunity emphasizes meaningful engagement by students and families and compensates their valuable time for participation

Dale Chu

At a time when many parents and families have felt left out of their schools’ decision-making processes, Central Falls School District’s effort to engage families could be worth watching. While initial survey results look promising, the real proof of the initiative’s efficacy will be the extent to which empowering parents yields demonstrable improvement in both students’ academic performance and well-being.

National Parents Union

Very glad to see students and parents voted on this. Wondering if more could’ve been spent to support this effort and how much stipends were for families' time?

Have a K-12 Practice You'd Like to See on EduRecoveryHub?

Submit a Practice for Review Today!

Submit a Practice