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Schools Put Funds From Lottery to Many Uses

July 13, 1986|STEVE GEISSINGER | Associated Press

California schools, yielding to pressure from teachers, have poured a significant amount of lottery profits into boosting employees' paychecks.

Financially strapped school boards, excited about the chance to meet a wide array of needs with their one-third share of every dollar spent on the games, also have purchased a wide variety of items, such as pig carcasses for science classes, bus driver jackets, a livestock feed lot and satellite dishes.

Other uses that turned up in surveys include videocassette recorders, after-school sports, disaster-preparedness training, air conditioning, copy machines and instructional computers.

State officials say one district got so creative with the funds that they are questioning the legality of the spending. The Santee district in rural San Diego County spent $2,800 on lunch for teachers at a training session.

A survey by the California School Boards Assn., whose findings were backed up generally by an informal state Education Department report, showed a majority of schools have spent considerable portions of their lottery proceeds directly on instructional supplies, like books.

The association said the second most common use was bolstering employees' pay, which pleases the California Teachers Assn. The group is working toward using the funds to reduce class sizes through additional hiring and to increase the salaries of teachers, many of whom it says are underpaid.

Community college boards spent their funds on a wide range of needs similar to those of the school districts, according to education officials, while the California State University system governing board used much of its share on computers and related equipment.

University of California regents spent much of their system's allocation on instructional computers also.

Not for Construction

The 1984 voter-approved ballot initiative that set up the lottery allows use of the money for just about any instructional need, as long as it isn't for school construction, land acquisition or research. The lottery got under way Oct. 3, 1985.

Have students in kindergarten through 12th grade in the more than 1,000 districts actually benefited from lottery funds so far, or has the money been sucked up by the bureaucracy?

A check by the Associated Press with a sampling of six districts showed:

- The state's largest district, Los Angeles, with about 579,000 students, has stockpiled its $55.7 million in hopes that legislation will allow it to use the money to build classrooms for a student population that will increase by about 82,000 in five years.

"It's fine for the initiative's authors to have listed the funds for supplemental needs, but it doesn't do us any good if students don't have anyplace to go to school," said spokesman Shel Erlich.

The California Teachers Assn. opposes the legislation, arguing that it is the responsibility of the state and not the lottery to provide money for school construction.

- One of the smallest urban districts, Emery in the Alameda County city of Emeryville, with about 600 students, is still pondering how to use its $46,400. Possible uses include buying computers and replacing audio-visual equipment. "It will (benefit students) next year . . . but it hasn't yet," said business manager Teo Bettencourt.

- One of the largest suburban districts, Cupertino, with about 10,300 students, left decisions on the first half of its $977,000 payment up to 22 individual schools, which spent it mostly on instructional materials like books, laboratory items and desks. "The basic philosophy of the board was to directly benefit schools and students," said spokeswoman Phyllis Tuckwiler.

- One of the smallest rural districts, Alpine County, with about 285 students, hasn't spent any of its $12,450 yet, but has earmarked it for outfitting a new utility room. Business manager Floyd Hampton acknowledged that the money hasn't benefited students so far, but said it arrived so late that "we didn't try to figure out how to use it" this school year.

- One of the richest, Beverly Hills, with about 5,000 students, put its $502,000 into a general fund, so it is unable to trace the ultimate use. "It's not earmarked for anything special . . . but goes into our general fund, and a majority of that is used to pay for staff. That is a direct (student) benefit," said spokeswoman Joan Perlof.

- One of the poorest, Galt High School District in Sacramento County, with about 1,100 students, used half its money for a one-time pay bonus for teachers and the rest on maintenance. "It definitely directly benefited students because it's even gone for student lockers, air conditioning and things like that," said spokeswoman Lois Landers.

Many districts complain that the public has a misconception that lottery funds have fulfilled schools' financial needs, which has led voters to defeat local tax increases.

Education officials point out that the total $497 million allocated in two quarterly payoffs so far statewide is little more than 1% to 2% of schools' budgets.

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