Local News

Mar 26, 2010 10:18 PM by Courtney Meznarich

How the Calif. Lottery helps, and doesn't help, local schools


The California Lottery was created to help fund public schools, but some want to know if its really doing its job in these tough economic times.

Since the lottery started in 1984, it's generated more than $20 billion for the school system, but that number makes up just over one percent of all school funding.

It's raising questions about whether the lottery could do more to help California's struggling schools.

"You know all that money supposedly goes into the school district," one parent said, "but where is it?"

San Luis Obispo County Schools Superintendent Dr. Julian Crocker says all that lottery money, is really not so much in relation to a school district's overall budget.

"It's a penny out of every dollar that school districts get," Dr. Crocker said. "So it's a very very small amount."

Around five and a half million dollars went to San Luis Obispo County schools last year. In Santa Barbara County, just over 11 million dollars. But operating costs run districts hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

"The downside of the lottery is the public perception is sometimes that it's much greater."

Dr. Crocker says many districts are facing 20 percent cuts, and revenues from the lottery are insignificant.

The lottery gives 35 cents of every dollar it brings in to schools.

Some say that's not enough.

"Perhaps a percentage of it needs to be risen," one person said. "All the people want to spend their money on all lotteries thinking they're going to win a billion dollars."

But increasing the school's cut would decrease the jackpot and could discourage participation.

The county says its schools appreciate the lottery money, which works out to around $130 per student each year. But it's a drop in the bucket considering schools spend nearly $10,000 a year per student.

"They ask, can't you use the lottery money to solve your problem? And the fact of the matter is, it's just not enough," Dr. Crocker said.

Since the passage of Prop. 20 in California, a small amount of lotto money must be used for instructional materials. School boards in each district decide how to use the remaining funds.

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