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How Much Do California Schools Get From the Lottery?

There can only be one California Lottery player who wins the jackpot, but California public schools also get lucky with a slice of the prize: lottery funds that help with school resources. 

The California Lottery site says that 95 cents of every dollar spent on a ticket goes back to public schools and colleges, in addition to prizes and retail compensation.

The prizes of course take the biggest chunk of cash. But California schools get a sliver of the pie.

“The Lottery has given California public schools more than $39 billion since we began in 1985. We gave more than $1.8 billion to public schools in Fiscal Year 2020-21, which is about 1% of the state’s annual budget for public schools. Remember, Lottery funds are meant to supplement public education, not replace state and local funding,” according to the CA Lottery website.

The funds help schools retain quality teachers, upgrade equipment and keep programs running, the site says, but it’s also not a main source of funding.

The State Controller’s Office determines how Lottery funds are distributed to public education institutions. Funding is based on Average Daily Attendance (ADA) for K-12 and community college school districts, for higher education and other specialized institutions that are based on full-time enrollment. 

According to the Lottery Act, schools funds should only be used exclusively for educational purposes for students. Schools have used lottery funds for computer labs, teacher workshops and programs like science, music and art. 

On the California Lottery website, they claim a music program on the verge of being cut was saved at Rio Vista Middle School in Oxnard, Ventura County, with the help of Lottery funding. 

These are the school levels that have received funds, along with percentages of cumulative distributions: 

Grade Level Distribution Percentage
K-12th Grade 79.9%
Community Colleges 14%
California State University System 3.7%
University of California 2.3%
Other educational entities 0.1%

So does this mean California schools are winning the lottery when it comes to lottery funds?

Not exactly.

When it comes to K-12 education, the lottery is a small part of the overall budget.

“The lottery provides about one percent of total kindergarten through grade twelve (K–12) funding. As such, lottery sales revenue represents only a small part of the overall budget of California’s K–12 public education that alone cannot provide for major improvements in K–12 education,” according to the California Department of Education.

The History of Lottery Funds for California Schools

In 1984, voters passed Prop 37 which aimed to benefit education in California via lottery funds. Here’s how it works: 50% of the revenue goes toward prizes to the public while a required 34 percent minimum goes to public education. In 2010, another law was passed to maximize how much public education was granted by minimizing the amount the California Lottery is allowed to retain to run the games, about 13%.

See a break-down at this link of exact dollar amounts given to schools via lottery funds.

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