The challenge for a political science class at /*De Anza College*/ is to close the state's budget deficit. The process wasn't easy as they decided to increase spending for education.
Cain Ramirez has worked as an after-school tutor.
"They don't have enough books to go around. They don't have pens. They don't have enough pencils. They don't even have scrap paper to use. That really hurt working with them. It's like you need better than this," said Ramirez.
Using wireless clickers, the De Anza College students participated in an exercise created by Next 10, a non-profit group from Palo Alto trying to teach people about the budget process.
"I think if people were more aware of the problems and more aware of the budget crisis, they could give their politicians a better idea what the politicians could do," said budget challenge participant Mark Allen.
The students were generous, giving more money to education and refusing to cut health and social welfare programs.
The $22 billion deficit they started with swelled to $38 billion.
To offset that, they raised taxes on high-income earners, but that only generated $4.5 billion.
"I've learned a lot about the choices that impact me as well as impact others, so I learned a wide range how my vote counts," said De Anza student Keith Hubbard.
Their votes will count on May 19th when Californians will consider six budget-related propositions.
So this exercise is not academic. It's real.
And just like politicians in Sacramento, they found themselves facing a deadline -- the end of class. So they made faster choices, sometimes not even discussing the ramifications.
They had to make cuts to bring the numbers down.
"Especially you're voting anonymously. You're sitting there. You don't have the pressure of anything behind you. You're just voting with what you believe, and you don't have to pay for it at the end of the day. So I think that that's definitely influenced by that," said Next 10 Program Officer Sarah Henry.
It's a good thing the students weren't graded on the Budget Challenge. In the end, they only reduced the state budget deficit by $3 billion, going from $22 billion to $19 billion.
Click here to take the budget challenge.