New state initiative expands youth civic engagement in education budgeting

A+panel+of+students+from+Civic+Leadership+High+School+along+with+Connecticut+Board+of+Education+Student+Member+Natalie+Bandura+discuss+preliminary+ideas+for+budgeting+proposals+at+the+Nov.+10+event.

Photo contributed by the Office of the Governor

A panel of students from Civic Leadership High School along with Connecticut Board of Education Student Member Natalie Bandura discuss preliminary ideas for budgeting proposals at the Nov. 10 event.

Anna Diorio ’23, Paper Arts Editor

Staples will participate in Voice4Change, an initiative in state educational financing, which allows students to craft, campaign for and vote on budget proposals for how to spend $20,000 allocated to each participating school.

“Voice4Change” was announced on Nov. 10, promoting its goal of expanding student input on how state Covid-19 relief funds are being spent. 

Connecticut is the first state to launch a state-wide initiative such as Voice4Change. With the initiative investing $1.5 million of the state’s allocation of federal funds into student proposals, Voice4Change aims to promote greater civic engagement among high schoolers in the state.

“I’ve found in life that the bigger the table the more ideas you get. The better the ideas are. I’ve just been hearing your ideas and I’m just glad we’re doing this,” Lamont said. “I want you to have a stake in the outcomes as well. These are your ideas. I want you to have the resources to make those ideas happen.

Lamont attended the event at CREC Civic Leadership High School in Enfield, CT, along with Russell-Tucker.  

The initiative so far spans across 43 districts, allotting funds to over 55,000 students in 77 schools. Students from these schools will submit their proposals via the CT gov website, offering their own ideas for how the $20,000 will be used. All of the proposals must follow specific CSDE guidelines, aligning with the ARP ESSER priorities. Student proposals considered eligible for the CSDE agenda will ultimately be voted on by students on March 11, 2022.

“The administrators have all of these ideas about spending, but why not you?” Russell-Tucker asked, addressing high school students. “We want to hear from you. What are those things that you’ve always wanted to do and know? With some resources around it, you can actually bring it to life.”

On the panel was Natalie Bandura ’22, the Connecticut Board of Education’s youngest board member. Bandura offered up her idea for a potential proposal that connects Staples students with other high schoolers across the world during the connections periods via Zoom.

“The one thing that I think [Staples] would benefit the most from would be more of a cultural awareness and more focus on diversity,” Bandura said. “Having greater exposure to various cultures and perspectives would better prepare us for entry into the real world where you have to work with people from across the nation and world.”

To aid students, overview sessions and Q&A webinars are set to take place in the near future, instructing high schoolers on how to construct their proposals. In addition, schools that have opted-in will be able to hear guest speakers.

“We are trying to make it as easy as possible for high school students, while still making sure we satisfy the American Rescue Plan elementary and secondary school emergency relief fund—our ESSER guidelines,” Assistant to Commissioner Madi Csejka said. “We’re hoping that students come up with something that we never thought of. We the state have been working so hard to save this money and invest this money.”

Students can register with their proposals at https://portal.ct.gov/Voice4Change, as well as contact via the department’s email box at SDE.ARPESSER@ct.gov.