The Powerball jackpot is at $1.4 billion: What does that mean for California schools?

The Powerball jackpot is at $1.4 billion: What does that mean for California schools?
Mark Nelson, left, shows off $460 worth of Powerball lottery tickets he bought at Bluebird Liquor, a shop with a reputation for lottery luck, in Hawthorne. At right is the owner of the liquor store, James Kim. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

The frenzy over the Powerball lottery has continued to build after Saturday's drawing failed to produce a winner, leading officials to increase the jackpot Monday to a jaw-dropping $1.4 billion.

With the biggest jackpot in U.S. lottery history when it was listed at almost $950 million on Saturday, game officials were stunned when, for the 19th consecutive drawing, the game failed to produce a winner.


"Someone should have a camera to see my reaction if we don't have a winner on Wednesday," joked Alex Traverso, a California State Lottery spokesman.

Drawings are every Saturday and Wednesday at 7:59 p.m. PST.

Powerball produces some of the biggest lottery jackpots in the country while giving the worst odds for winning. The odds of matching all six Powerball numbers (five numbers between 1-69, a sixth between 1-26) are 1 in 292 million.

No one has matched all six numbers since Nov. 4. Powerball is played in 44 states and three U.S. territories.

As people continue to hand over $2 per ticket this week, state lottery officials say it's turning into a windfall of sorts for education because a portion of the state's overall lottery sales (including Scratchers) goes toward the education budget.

About 40 cents of every dollar sold in Powerball tickets, specifically, goes toward education, Traverso said. In the 2014-15 fiscal year, Powerball sales in California were $372 million, meaning about $148.8 million went to the state's education budget.

In just the last five days, from Tuesday to Sunday, there were $150 million in Powerball sales in California, Traverso said. That equates to roughly $60 million for schools.

"We're making in an hour what we're typically making in an entire week in two [Powerball] draws," Traverso said. "Wednesday is probably going to be the best day of sales we've ever had."

To be clear, only a tiny fraction of the state's education money comes through lottery sales – about 1%. But a drop in the bucket on that scale can mean tens of millions of dollars, officials say. Overall spending for California public schools is about $76.6 billion when federal funds and other funding sources are added, according to the California Department of Education.

"Anything that comes to education is a good thing. Nothing is too small for the schools and students here in California," said Naj Alikhan, a spokesman for the Assn. of California School Administrators.

Last year about 24.6%, or $1.39 billion, of the lottery revenues were funneled back into California's K-12 schools, community colleges and public universities. (Some non-Powerball lottery tickets, such as Scratchers, contribute fewer than 40 cents per dollar.)

About 80% of last year's lottery revenues for education went to K-12 education, 13% went to community colleges and the remainder was divided among higher education and other entities, according to the lottery's website.


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