A Closer Look At How CA Lottery Sales Benefit Public Education

Written By Cheryl Coward on June 7, 2023 - Last Updated on June 9, 2023
A closer look at how California lottery sales help fund public education, from playca.com

In the United States, profits from state lotteries go to a variety of different initiatives. In many states like California, one area of focus is education.

Enticing ads that catch the attention of residents tout the benefits of the lottery for education funding. 

So, with all this money floating around, have schools benefitted from the Lottery? Exactly how much money goes to public education in California?

Let’s take a closer look:

The Lottery’s educational mandate

Voters approved the establishment of the California Lottery per a ballot initiative passed in 1984 on the promise that it would annually provide substantial money to help fund public education. Funds from the program are not meant to replace the state’s budget for public education, but to supplement it. Since it launched in October 1985, the Lottery has given more than $41 billion to the state’s public schools.

For every dollar spent on lottery games, 95 cents goes back to the community and is allocated to public schools, colleges, retailers, and prizes. The payout to schools is “a modest amount of money compared to the entire education budget,” according to the CA Lottery.

Decisions on how the money gets spent are up to local school boards and education administrators. The State Controller’s Office hands out the funds based on enrollment statistics for K-12 schools, community college districts, higher education institutions, and other specialized schools.

Percentages of cumulative distributions

  • K-12th Grade: 79.9%
  • Community Colleges: 14.0%
  • California State University System: 3.7%
  • University of California: 2.3%
  • Other Educational Entities: 0.1%

How much do schools get?

For the fiscal year 2020-21, the California Lottery took in $8.4 billion in sales. Of that, $1.8 billion went to California public schools. That amounted to approximately 1.8% of the state’s total budget for public schools, which was $98.8 billion. Lottery revenue generated roughly $244 per student, according to EdSource.

The CA Lottery provides a tool on its website for residents to see exactly how much their county and school district receives in funding for the latest fiscal year. For example, Sonoma County received $6,117,895 in funds for the 2022-23 fiscal year and $485,839,448 overall since the lottery began.

The way Lottery officials handle funds has not been without controversy. In 2020, a state audit found that the Lottery shortchanged schools by $36 million during the 2017-18 fiscal year. 

Is the Lottery allocation enough?

Are Lottery educational allocations less than what residents imagine after watching slick Lottery ads and seeing the payouts for big drawings like Mega Millions? The answer may vary depending on the perceptions of individual residents.

Furthermore, according to Education Week, the state’s K-12 public schools may need more financial help given the current economic climate. The aftermath of recent catastrophic events in the tech and media sector, plus a downturn in the real estate market, have affected the state’s overall budget projections.

Education funding could suffer as Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2023-24 budget decreased funding for K-12 public schools by $1.5 billion from the previous year. Hopefully, the record amount of revenue the Lottery is taking in will help public schools ride out the economic downturn.

CA Lottery becoming more popular

The California Lottery is one of the most popular state-run lotteries in the US, and it is getting even more popular. In fact, California Lottery sales passed the $8 billion mark for the first time in 2021, with SuperLotto, Mega Millions, and Scratchers games paying out enormous jackpots for winners.

California Lottery players can play a variety of draw games as well as scratchers or instant win games. California runs several of its own in-state lottery games and also participates in popular multi-jurisdictional games like Powerball and Mega Millions.

There are more than 23,000 California Lottery retail partners located throughout the state where people can purchase tickets. During the 2020-21 fiscal year, California players won more than $5.5 billion playing the lottery.

Photo by AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
Cheryl Coward Avatar
Written by
Cheryl Coward

Cheryl Coward is a contributor for PlayCA with a background in sports journalism. She started her career as a news reporter in Washington, DC. She’s a die-hard women’s basketball fanatic and founded the website Hoopfeed.com as a result of that passion. She has extensive experience covering gambling and sports betting in California, including coverage of the Prop 26 vs. Prop 27 election battle.

View all posts by Cheryl Coward
Privacy Policy