I feel compelled to respond to your March 8 editorial (“Misusing Lottery Money”) on how lottery funds are used by schools. In that editorial you quote Superintendent of Public Instruction Bill Honig’s criticisms of the uses to which lottery funds have been put and you close by praising Honig for having “finally pointed a finger at a growing problem.” My question after reading the editorial is at whom is Honig pointing his finger?
Is he pointing at school districts who choose to use lottery funds for “basics like salaries and textbooks”? Is he pointing at state officials for “substituting lottery earnings for basic support from the state’s general fund”? Or is he pointing at the California Lottery?
As chairman of the California State Lottery Commission and a former superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, I know that the lottery supplies a small percentage (3%) of the total public education budget and that, nevertheless, the funds contributed by the lottery are welcomed by our schools.,
As you know, the lottery act mandates the lottery “to provide additional monies to benefit education without the imposition of additional or increased taxes.” The act gives schools the prerogative of using lottery funds for any instructional purpose, including salaries for teachers.
The law further provides that at least 34% of the lottery’s annual revenues be allocated to public education. In every year since its inception in 1985, the lottery has fulfilled this mandate. In fact, in every year the lottery has contributed more than the 34% required, because of administrative efficiencies. In the last fiscal year, $804 million was transferred to education, which was 38% of its total revenues. This fiscal year, which ends on June 30, we expect our contribution to exceed $950 million, which represents $160 per student.
The passage of Proposition 98 will provide even more funds for schools this year and beyond. Fully 40% of the state’s future total income will be spent on K-12 and community colleges.
As the person responsible for managing the state’s educational system, Honig should be challenged to provide the leadership to resolve the issue of education funding. The task before him is to determine how to make best use of all the funding available to educate our children.
WILLIAM J. JOHNSTON
State Lottery Commission