Idaho public schools received a record $33.4 million check from the Idaho Lottery during ceremonies Tuesday at the Statehouse.
The check represents the State Department of Education’s share of the lottery’s annual dividend, which supports building projects for public schools and the Permanent Building Fund.
This year’s total dividend came to $53.5 million, another new record.
Public schools’ $33.4 million dividend beat the previous record $30.9 million check from 2015-16.
The lottery check represents less than 2 percent of Idaho’s nearly $1.8 billion public school budget.
Gov. Butch Otter and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra welcomed the annual lottery check, saying the record dividend will support children and bolster schools.
“One of the little-known perks of the job as superintendent of public instruction is the honor of accepting these giant gifts on behalf of our schools and children,” Ybarra said.
Schools’ needs vary across the state, Ybarra pointed out. But local districts can use a share of the dividend for one-time repair and improvement projects, such as upgrading fire protection or building walls so students may have a quiet place to test. The remaining share of the schools’ dividend goes into the Bond Levy Equalization Fund to benefit rural or cash-strapped districts where voters have approved building bond issues.
Idaho Lottery Director Jeff Anderson attributed the increased dividend to a successful lottery business plan and the popularity of large jackpot games, such as Mega Millions and Powerball.
Tuesday’s $53.5 million dividend brings the total dividend returned to Idaho schools and the Permanent Building Fund to $846 million over the state lottery’s 29-year history, Anderson said.
“You exceeded, I think, even the expectations we had 29 years ago,” Otter said.
To commemorate Otter’s 12th and final year as governor, lottery officials presented him with a framed mock lottery scratch ticket, “Butch Cash-idy.” The design depicted a cartoon likeness of Otter, dressed in a suit and tie and riding a horse.