Do "Our Schools Win, Too"?

School Uses of Lottery Revenue—Year One
Eric Hartwig
Portola Valley School District


Since its passage in the fall of 1984, the California State Lottery has been widely and enthusiastically supported by players while receiving more guarded support from educators. Now the largest state-operated lottery in the nation, California's program generated an unheard of $1.77 billion in ticket sales during its first fiscal year of operation, a year that included only nine months of sales due to a later-than-anticipated start. The lottery's contribution to all public education that year amounted to $689 million.

Elementary and secondary schools received approximately $555 million, a windfall equal to about 2.6 percent of California's total budget for K–12 public education. On a per-pupil basis, the lottery's contribution in fiscal year 1985-86 amounted to $125.67 for every unit of average daily attendance or full-time equivalent in the state's public K–12, community college, state college, and state university systems.

Because the Lottery Act imposes only the broadest restrictions on use of the education funds generated by the lottery, the program has been plagued by a degree of uncertainty as to what constitutes appropriate use of funds. Additionally, despite specific language in the Lottery Act and in subsequent legislation that requires lottery funds for education to be treated as supplementary revenues, school district administrators are torn between pressures to restore badly eroded basic operations and programs and pressures to "live up" to the lottery's promise of enhancement of public education.

Overshadowing these two issues are concerns about the reliability of the California State Lottery as a source of education revenue and the possibility that lottery revenues will be "planned into" the state budget process so that, in time, the program will contribute no "new" or "extra" money for education.

This study surveyed a sample of California K–12 public school districts regarding their actual or planned uses of 1985–86 lottery revenues and their attitudes about and experiences with the lottery program

Suggested citationHartwig, E. (1987, April). Do "Our schools win, too"? School uses of lottery revenue: Year one [Report]' Policy Analysis for California Education.