Schools Could Be Big Winners of Powerball Frenzy

Lines filled convenience stores Wednesday as people across the country queued up with dreams of a billion dollars in their heads.

Another big winner could be California schools.

Californians voted to bring the lottery to the state back in 1984, with the promise that a big portion of ticket sale income would go directly to public schools. And it does help, just not as much as you might think.

Californians have spent $301 million on this one Powerball game. At times this week, they were spending at a rate of nearly $17,000 in tickets per minute.

While the odds of winning are minuscule, California Lottery spokesman Russ Lopez says public schools definitely score.

“Roughly 40-percent of that $301 million dollars will be given to California public schools.”

That should add up to nearly $121 million for California’s public education system from this one game alone.

But Lopez says that even with this month’s record-breaking jackpot, the money generated annually by the state lottery barely makes a dent in the state’s public education budget.

“It’s a modest amount. It’s not a lot of money. It’s roughly 1 percent of schools’ overall budgets.”

While Powerball is held across many states, Lopez says that every penny spent on tickets in California stays in California.

Lottery rules require 50 percent of sales revenue to go into the jackpot. About 10 percent covers the operations of the game and lottery system. The remaining 40 percent goes to education.

In 2014, the California Lottery sent $1.39 billion dollars to public schools, which includes K-12s along with community colleges, Cal State and UC campuses.

The state’s Department of Education has admitted that more than half of that money goes to pay school salaries and administrative costs.

“This was not meant to solve education’s problems,” Lopez says. “Lottery money was only meant to supplement. Schools are still in need. All we are doing is helping them out.”

Find out how much your school received in the most recent quarter here.

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