Education Not a Winner in Lotto Upswing

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At a time when the stock market is plunging, retirement accounts are dwindling, people losing their jobs and facing longer bouts of unemployment, the California Lottery is reporting huge sales.

Year over year, California is looking at a 13 percent increase, totaling $3.04 billion.

In fact lottery officials are saying that the California Lottery is the fastest growing lottery in the country -- in a state where unemployment is among the highest.

The one- to five- dollar Scratcher games are the most popular, with payouts totaling  $100 to  $75,000 .

But even though the Lottery is throwing confetti, the celebration doesn't extend to schools, which are supposed to be a major beneficiary of lottery largesse.

Since the Lottery began in 1985, players have contributed more than $23 billion to education according to officials. In absolute numbers that might sound like a lot, but in reality lottery funds cover less than 2% of all educational funding.  

"It's not a game changer," said Jim Esterbrooks of the San Diego County Office of Education whose 42 school districts have a combined yearly budget of $4 billion.

"It's still better than a kick in the teeth," he said. "When money is tight anything is good, but the lottery has never been a panacea."

The money that school districts do get from the lottery is generally used for one-time expenses like instruments or school equipment, not salaries, he said .

Critics of the lottery system say it the minimal benefit provided to schools is not worth the largert cost to society.

"It's a terrible plan designed specifically to soak the poor, " who are generally the ones who buy the Scratcher games said Richard Rider, chairman of San Diego Tax Fighters.

"These are people who shouldn't be betting at all."


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