The California State Lottery of 1984 and Proposition 20: Please Remember our Children

The California State Lottery Act of 1984 and Proposition 20 were preceded by the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF). Most of us are busy with our everyday affairs, and we may miss the importance of educational issues that center around finances that involve not only us, but our children! Historically, the California State Lottery of 1984 and Proposition 20 was created in 1984 as a tool to not raise taxes so that schools could receive more funds. Proposition 20, The Cardenas Textbook Act of 2000 had the base amount “calculated in the 1997-1998 fiscal year”. The following is a specific description:
“The California State Lottery Act of 1984 regulates the amount of lottery funds reserved for public education. Under the provisions of the Act, 34% of the total annual revenues from the sale of state lottery tickets are reserved for public education. These funds must be used exclusively for the education of pupils and students, and none of these funds may be spent for acquisition of real property, construction of facilities, financing of research, or any other non instructional purpose. Proposition 20…changed the way lottery funds..put to use by exclusively allocating to instructional materials, 50% of any increase in the share of the money calculated to benefit public education over the amount calculated in the 1997-1998 fiscal year. It was supposed to guarantee a minimum level of funding for the purchase of textbooks and other instructional materials.” Diaz (2000)

Relevance to Education

The goal of California State Lottery Act of 1984 was to further supplement funds already set aside for public education by other sources. Politics came into play. I will divide this into three parts:

Policy Considerations:
1. Could this measure have forced schools to set aside lottery funds specifically to instructional materials?
2. Were funds used wisely since guidelines were increased?
3. Would this legislation provide for future precedents? (Cal-Tax Positions 2000)

Support Arguments
1. Proposition 20 hopefully, would guarantee that students would have textbooks, consequently, no tax increases or any lottery expansion.
2. When approved by the voters in 1984, the California Department of Education recommended that districts could use the lottery funds for one-time costs such as textbooks, computers, field trips, etc. (Cal-Tax Positions 2000)

Opposition Arguments
1. Local control would be taken away. Consequently, in many instances, Sacramento politicians were making some of the decisions; and sometimes local politics was not fully considered.
2. Ongoing funding for textbooks by state budgets continued.
3. You had the philosophy that districts should decide the best use of lottery funds. (Cal-Tax Positions 2000)

Cal Watch Dog (2012)cited some different viewpoints about the lottery. Katy Grimes, a California administrator stated, “I am not sure why Californians are faced with two tax increase measures this November, ostensibly to help fund California’s starving public educational system. The California Lottery, which was sold to voters as a way to help fund California’s public education system, is a cash cow, and rakes in billions of dollars every year. But what actually makes it to schools amounts to about $132. per student.” It was October of 1985 when the first lottery tickets went on sale. Another Californian exclaimed how their friends had a party, thinking they would get rich. They purchased 100 tickets to see if any would win. Nobody had won. For that individual, that was the last lottery ticket ever purchased!

Equity and Adequacy

Of course, equity and adequacy must also be part of California’s accountability. California has received a C by the National Report Card (2012) regarding its fairness in 2007, 2008, and 2009 along with effort, F in funding, and a rank of 42 at its funding levels. Another source, Education Wee, put California with a grade of C, stating that California only used 3.5% of its total taxable resources on education! Brimley, Garfield, and Verstegen (2012) established that a good tax system should include fairness or equity, adequacy, low costs of collection, impact/incidence, neutrality, and predictability.

There’s hope at the end of the tunnel. The Local Control Funding Formula is being utilized in California. It is too soon to know the full effects, but it’s promising! “The future of education finance will bring even greater focus to the concepts of equity and adequacy. State funding distribution models that were developed on antiquated notions of equity must be replaced by new systems states Robert C. Knoppel, 2010.


Baker, Bruce & Sciarra, David. (2012). “Is School Funding Fair?” A National Report Card. ELC Education Law Cener. Rutgers Graduate School of Education.
CA Lottery: State’s cash cow, Cal Watch Dog retrieved from
Cal-Tax Positions
Leachman, Michael and Mai, Chris. (May 2014). Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Most States Funding Schools Less Than Before the Recession.
Brimley, Vern. Garfield, Rulon R, & Verstegen, Deborah, A. (2012). “Financing Education in a Climate of Change”. Boston: Pearson, Inc.


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