Four Alaskans win cash prizes in first-ever PFD education raffle

Alaska state Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, at left, turns the drum for the first PFD education raffle with help from Gov. Mike Dunleavy, at right, on Tuesday, as Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, and Education Commissioner Michael Johnson, in back, watch. (Photo by Adelyn Baxter/KTOO)

State officials celebrated the first-ever PFD education raffle at Harborview Elementary School in Juneau on Tuesday.

With opening remarks from Gov. Mike Dunleavy and others out of the way, Education Commissioner Michael Johnson drew the first-place ticket from a large brass drum.

“James Johnson. No relation,” Johnson announced, to laughter and applause.

James Johnson won $17,396.

The second-place prize of $8,698 went to Joshua Foster, third place went to Dantasia James for $4,349 and fourth place went to Laura Hayes with $2,174.50.

The raffle is designed to raise money for K-12 education by allowing Alaskans 18 and over to donate a portion of their permanent fund dividends to enter. Each ticket costs $100.

The contest raised $869,800 in the first year. Half of that will go directly to schools this year as supplemental grants.

A quarter of the money goes into the raffle fund, with some carrying over for the next year’s pot. The remaining quarter goes into an education endowment fund.

Sen. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks, also took a turn spinning the drum. He introduced legislation that created the raffle in 2018.

Bishop said the education endowment fund will grow over time, much like the permanent fund. Once it reaches $1 billion, it will generate money for education.

“I just hope in 40 years that this fund will be fully charged and spin it off as advertised,” Bishop said. “So, hopefully, this word will get out and more people will participate.”

Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss also watched the drawing.

She said it’s nice to see new, creative ways to raise money for schools. But she isn’t overly optimistic, given the recent history of education funding in Alaska.

“We’ve been flat-funded since 2017, and as every household, we’re no different — our costs go up, our cost for our employees goes up, our cost of utilities go up, etc.,” Weiss said. “So we’re looking at a decline in funding, even with a status quo flat funding.”

The money going to schools this year helps, but it likely won’t make a huge impact in terms of overall budgets.

Weiss, who was headed to a district budget work session after the drawing, said she had not yet been told when or how exactly the raffle money will be divided up between school districts.

Previous articlePelican, Tenakee mayors ‘stunned and outraged’ at prospect of summer without ferries
Next articleState gives timber industry group $1.3M in federal money to work with U.S. Forest Service