Schools cash in on record lottery sales

The 27th year of the Idaho Lottery was a record-setter for Idaho schools.

On Tuesday, state lottery officials cut a check of nearly $31 million to the State Department of Education — representing the largest dividend check in the lottery’s history.

The check represents K-12’s share from a record year of lottery ticket sales.

Idaho Lottery
Chuck Zimmerly of the State Department of Education, left, state lottery director Jeff Anderson and Gov. Butch Otter pose with a ceremonial check during a news conference Tuesday. (Andrew Reed, Idaho Education News.)

The $31 million is up $3 million from the schools’ 2015 dividend, but it still isn’t a big sum in the overall context of public school funding. This year, the state will put close to $1.6 billion of tax dollars into the K-12 system.

But the lottery proceeds allow schools to finance one-time building needs. And Tuesday’s news conference was orchestrated to show off one such beneficiary.

Gov. Butch Otter, lottery commissioners and other state officials gathered under outdoor tents at Valley View Elementary School, a grade school in West Boise. Valley View was opened in 1969. That was long before the Boise Towne Square mall and other commercial development transformed West Boise, and before the school outgrew its original parking lot. Using lottery money, the Boise district rebuilt the lot and entryway last summer, providing a safer dropoff area for the school’s 450 students, and improved parking for Valley View’s 45 staffers.

“The improvements made last year were sorely needed,” Boise district Superintendent Don Coberly said.

Wilcox Elementary School Principal Brenda Miner drove from Pocatello to tout a small but important upgrade at her school.

The school’s computer lab is located in the library — so in the past, the library has been closed for six weeks at a time during standardized test season. But the Pocatello district used money to wall off the computer lab, providing a secure testing area and allowing other students to continue using the library.

The lottery money doesn’t support teacher salaries or ongoing programs, but instead is used as one-time money for building projects. The state will siphon $12.4 million of the $31 million for the schools’ Bond Levy Equalization Fund, and the remaining $18.6 million will go out to districts.

Here’s a closer look at the lottery’s record 2016, by the numbers:

  • Ticket sales: $236.1 million.
  • Prizes: $153.8 million.
  • Commissions to retailers: $13.8 million.
  • Dividend to the state Permanent Building Fund: $18.6 million. The Permanent Building Fund shares dividends with the schools.