When proponents of the California Lottery tried to get it established in the mid-1980s, the selling point was that a bunch of money would go to the states public schools. Yet the news in recent years has been about teacher and salary cutbacks and tight school finances. What happened?
Sahndra Chavez recently wrote to ask about it: Where did all the money go that was to go to schools from the sales of California Lottery tickets? Is there an office or someplace where I can see the allocation of where the money went?
Yes. The state lottery has a great website ( www.calottery.com) with all kinds of information, including how much is distributed to each county, each school district within the counties and the total amount given to schools in the past year and since the lottery began in 1985.
According to the website, $1.32 billion was distributed in the 2011-12 fiscal year, the 12th consecutive year that more than $1 billion went to education. Last years lottery sales rose by 27 percent, to $4.37 billion in tickets. Since 1985, the lottery has funded $25 billion for schools, which has gone to K-12 schools, community colleges, the California State University system, the University of California, the juvenile justice system and other educational programs. The biggest chunk $20.321 billion has gone to K-12 schools.
The website trumpets: The great news is that when lottery sales are up, education is the biggest winner of all.
And it does sound like a huge amount, but in fact provides only about 1.3 percent of education funding statewide.
In Ceres, for instance, the school district received $1.82 million last year. Its operating budget is about $100 million.
I think theres a perception out there that the lottery is a huge portion of our operating budget. Thats not true, said Ceres Superintendent Scott Siegel. Its less than 2 percent of our budget. I think its valuable money for the schools and Im thankful to have it, but I think people need to know its not the solution to all of the schools problems.
Some of the money is restricted and must be used for instructional materials such as workbooks and textbooks, he said. The unrestricted part can go to anything except for building costs. In Ceres, the unrestricted money is used to pay part of school nurses salaries.
Julie Chapin, associate superintendent of business services for Modesto City Schools, said all of its restricted funds go for materials such as music books and supplemental workbooks. The unrestricted money, she said, pays for substitute teachers and substitute classified employees. We dont use any of those funds for permanent salaries, she said.
Modesto Citys elementary schools received $2.382 million last year, and the high schools received an additional $2.245 million. Sylvan Union School District received $1.93 million.
And, in case youre wondering, the lottery can spend a maximum of 13 percent on overhead costs; about 50 percent goes to paying the winners, with the rest going to education. If someone doesnt claim his or her winnings, that money also goes to the schools.
Sahndra Chavez said she thought gambling was illegal in California. Ah, the way we get around things in life. Gambling, in general, is illegal here. But the lottery and licensed card rooms are allowed, as is gambling in casinos on American Indian land. The preferred term for all of this is gaming, by the way. Sounds so much less addictive, doesnt it? And yet, what do we do when we attend fundraising casino nights at church and service clubs, or buy raffle tickets at a high school football game or even pay to play bunco for prizes? It all comes down to games of chance, doesnt it?
Send questions to Sue Nowicki at firstname.lastname@example.org, fax to (209) 578-2207 or mail to P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352-5256.