A bill that would have the state lottery give the maximum amount possible to California public schools was passed unanimously in the Senate on Thursday 36-0.
Senate Bill 818, authored by Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa), would require the Director of the California State Lottery to recalculate the optimal prize payout rate at least once every 5 years to keep the funding concurrent with lottery patronization trends. The director would also, by August 2022, conduct a study into finding out what the best prize payout rate would be to maximize the amount of funding allocated to public education each year by the lottery.
The California State Lottery Commission would, in turn, use that rate to set the lottery’s budget each year, beginning in 2023.
Senator Dodd wrote the bill to ensure that California public schools would get the most money possible, especially in the face of state budget emergencies, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted public schooling statewide. State law currently allocates 87% of all money collected by the lottery to go back to the public either through winning payouts or to public schools, with the other 13% going towards lottery operating costs. The amount going to schools has gone up each year since the lottery started in 1985 due to more people playing, with $1.8 billion going to schools in 2019 alone.
“At a time when the coronavirus has strained finances at California schools, getting them the most money from the lottery is critically important,” said Senator Dodd in a statement on Thursday. “My bill analyzes lottery prize amounts to ensure the largest possible share for education. It will help us find the sweet spot between money coming in and going out, to bolster funding that is needed now more than ever.”
Many supporters, especially those in educational positions, have noted that hey are behind the bill because they see the current system as underfunded, with the bill making sure that as much as possible will go to students.
“Schools in California are chronically underfunded, to detriment of our students,” said Sonoma County superintendent of schools Steve Herrington earlier this month. “This bill would help address that by ensuring that state lottery funds go to their intended recipient — the students of California.”
Many other supporters have pointed out that continued funding is needed now more than ever after COVID-19 and the state budget emergency last year.
“This gives public schools non-direct budget funding,” explained Abel Worth, an accountant who has been with several public school systems in California since the early 2000’s, to the Globe. “This funding can’t be cut or limited. State law prohibits the amount from being screwed around with too much and this bill reaffirms that. It’s funding that helps children learn at the same time it cuts down, at least a little bit, on direct taxpayer spending. That looks really great to most people.”
As of Friday, no major bloc of opposition has formed against the bill, with SB 818 previously being passed unanimously in other committees and members of the Assembly from both parties already saying that they would support its passage.
SB 818 is due to go before Assembly committees beginning in May.
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