In recent years, San Diego Unified School District has received an average of $13-15 million in funding from the California State Lottery. This is less than 1.5 percent of the district's annual operating budget.

The lottery’s mandate, as defined in the California State Lottery Act, is to provide supplemental funding to California public education on all levels from kindergarten through higher education plus several specialized schools. For every dollar taken in by the lottery, a minimum of 34 cents goes to public education. The remainder goes toward prizes and administration of the lottery system. The lottery was approved by voters in 1984.

In the San Diego Unified School District, lottery funds are placed into the General Fund, which funds operations and items such as books, supplies, and instructional materials.

Public schools receive the same per-pupil funding from the lottery, based on average daily attendance of students the district. According to the Lottery Act, lottery contributions can be used only for instructional purposes. Acquisition of property, the construction of facilities or the funding of research is prohibited. Local education administrators and school boards decide how the balance is spent; the lottery is not involved in this decision-making process.