KINGSBURG – After Kingsburg High School PreLaw Club members attended a budget simulation at the California State Capital, they’re more aware of how Congress makes financial decisions that affect their everyday lives.

“The goal is that students become educated about California’s legislative system and interested in becoming aware, engaged citizens,” their adviser Dina Siebenaler said. “It’s an exciting and enriching opportunity for students.”

The students traveled to Sacramento Oct. 18 to participate in the budget simulation at the State Capital where they act as members of Congress.

“The purpose of attending the various programs is so students can share their ideas and concerns for California’s future with other student-citizens, meet with current legislators and perhaps even choose careers in some aspect of serving the state of California,” Siebenaler said.

Siebenaler teaches advance placement government and politics, civics and economics at Kingsburg High. This is the sixth year Vikings have participated in the LegiSchool Program thanks to a grant sponsored by California State University, Sacramento, and the California State Legislature. The program is administered through the Center for California Studies and Cal State Sacramento. The coordinator is Rotce Hernandez.

As the students participated in the budget simulation, they had to weigh spending priorities, services to cut or fund, lowering or raising taxes and how to grow the state’s economy.

“All of these questions help introduce the student to a representative government style of thinking which clarifies that legislators have an obligation to represent their constituents under a representative government,” Siebenaler said.

After participating in the simulation, students agreed they learned valuable lessons about the process and were surprised by certain aspects of the state budget.

“This experience was valuable as it helps high school students learn about areas of economic concern to our government and its citizens,” Pre-Law Club President Jackson Kuramoto said.

The students may have had different spending priorities, but they all had specific ideas about different ways to grow the state’s economy.

“I think we can achieve further growth with California’s economy by investing in human capital with expanded public education opportunities,” Kuramoto said.

Robert Cordova had other ideas to help the state’s economy.

“In order to grow the economy, I believe in offering tax breaks to middle-class families and reducing the corporate tax rates,” Cordova said.

Benjamin Nicholas said he learned more about how senators influence the budget and how much that the budgeting process affects citizens’ day-to-day life.

“I think that this trip is valuable for students because it helps unveil the mystery of how our state government works.”

Nicholas was also surprised to find out that about a third of the budget goes to fund the prison system. He, too, had different ideas regarding growing the budget.

“I believe that through investing in slow growing, comprehensive health and human service projects we can continue to achieve stable and balanced economic goals.”

David Lopez had yet different ideas on the topic.

“In order to grow the economy, the state should invest in property along the freeway that coincides with the High Speed Rail. Another way to boost the economy is to cut non-essential programs.”

Siebenaler said she encourages all students to attend the LegiSchool Program regardless of their career aspirations so that they understand the state’s legal system.

“What I hope for the students is as individual as the students themselves. For some, they may decide to pursue a career in some aspect of policy making, law or community service. For others, they will understand the pressure that goes into legislative decisions and the need for vigilance on behalf of the community,” she said.

Siebenaler said she also encourages students to take part in activities that create civic engagement such as mock trial, Open Doors to Federal Courts or LegiSchool.

“We’ll have to see what the year brings,” she said of how students will now use their new-found budget and legislative knowledge. “The goal is to create educated, proactive voters that will strive to keep our government transparent.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or lbrown@selmaenterprise.com.

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