The odds of winning the Powerball are 1 in 292 million. Those odds aren’t great, but the good news is people who purchase tickets are helping some great causes no matter what.
According to the California Lottery, when you play lottery games, a chunk of your money goes to local schools. For example, when you play the Powerball, 80 cents of every $2 Powerball ticket goes to public education funding in the state.
School districts like Burbank Unified benefit in a big way. The California Lottery says schools in that district received more than $4 million dollars in lottery money in one year alone.
In fact, the lotto has given California public schools more than $39 billion dollars since it began in 1985.
The lottery states the amount given to public education is about 1% of the state’s annual budget for public schools and that lottery funds are meant to supplement public education, not replace state and local funding.
The I-Team visited the Girls Athletic Leadership School Los Angeles or GALS LA in Panorama City to see how they’re spending their portion of the lottery funds. The school serves more than 150 girls in middle school.
“We lead with the concept that health and wellness is a key contributing factor to academic success and the idea that if you physically have a body, you are an athlete,” Vanessa Garza, GALS Principal, said.
“We received about $40,000 and all of it has been used for instructional materials,” Garza said.
Garza says students come with different needs and skills gaps and the instructional material helps each student individualize their learning and that having this much instructional material would not be possible without the California Lottery funds.
Community colleges also get a piece of the lotto pie, including Pasadena City College, which has received more than $6 million dollars in funding during the last academic year.
“We use the lottery funds for … lab supplies that [students] use in experiments,” said PCC Dean of Natural Sciences Veronica Jaramillo.
The money is also used for supplies like specialized pens, sharpeners and sketch books for art classes.
“Typically what happens or what used to happen was that students would have to scramble that first day of class, like they have a list of things. They’re stressed out,” PCCC Chair of the Visual Arts Division Dice Yamaguchi said.
Now, he said, starter art kits are given to students at the beginning of their semester.
The I-Team also discovered how Santa Monica College spends its portion of lottery funds.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, lottery funds were crucial in helping SMC fulfill its mission of access and equity by enabling the purchase of Chromebooks, distance education software, and instructional kits needed for students taking classes remotely—everything from microscopes to cameras, sewing supplies, lab chemicals, musical instruments…to name only a few,” said a spokesperson for the college.
So while you may not win big each time you play, you are in many ways helping California students succeed.
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