My Sunday story on Notus School District’s trouble passing a bond to replace its 88-year-old elementary school brought a question from an online commenter: Isn’t money from Idaho’s lottery supposed to help with school buildings?
The short answer is that it does help, but don’t think of the lottery as a rich uncle.
Idaho’s lottery, which began in 1989, was approved by voters who were assured a percentage of the take would go to help public schools.
But that doesn’t translate into as much money as you may think.
Example: Idaho public school districts expects to receive $19.1 million from the lottery in fiscal year 2016, according to Idaho Department of Education officials. The public schools budget is $1.4 billion. That amounts to one penny in lottery money for every dollar spent on public education.
Money is doled out to school districts based on their previous year’s average daily attendance of students.
Notus School District, with fewer than 400 students, received $26,559 in fiscal year 2013. Between 1990 and 2013, the district received $410,868, less than 10 percent of the $4.8 million the district says it needs to replace its elementary school.
Last year, the Notus School District spent about $26,000, much of it to install energy efficient windows in some elementary school classrooms, to replace toilets and for service calls on its boiler.
For a number of years, the legislature required districts to put the lottery money into schools for maintenance. During the recession, that requirement was suspended and the money could be used for day-to-day operations to help offset the cuts lawmakers made in public education.
But now lawmakers have started requiring the money to go back into maintenance. This year, two-thirds of a district’s lottery money is expected to go to maintenance and one-third to operational expenses. The State Department of Education has proposed all the money be marked for maintenance in fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1.
That proposal could change once Sherri Ybarra, state schools superintendent-elect, takes office. If you want to know much money your districts gets from the lottery, look here.