Every time school budget problems are in the news, readers always want to know: What about the California Lottery money that’s supposed to be sent to schools? Public records show state lottery money is often a small drop in a much larger bucket that is a school district’s annual budget.

San Diego Unified officials earlier this month announced they’d need to cut at least $116.6 million in spending to balance next year’s budget, and identified three broad areas where the cuts would come from. But the district can’t say what those three areas currently cost. If the central office can cut $44 million, what is that $44 million from?

The O’Farrell Charter School sees a fraction of the fights as Lincoln High, two miles west. Based on surveys area principals conducted with parents, violence is a big part of the reason why 70 percent of southeastern San Diego families opt for charters or schools in other neighborhoods.

Since the recession, San Diego Unified School District has benefited from statewide tax hikes, a local tax hike for school construction (sold in part as a way to relieve pressure on the system’s budget), an expanding economy that has churned out more money for schools and an advantageous change in how California allocates school dollars. […]

Local school board elections saw unprecedented spending this season from the state’s biggest charter school advocacy group, California Charter Schools Association, as well as heavy spending from teachers unions, as both sides vied for more control over the local boards of education that determine which charter schools are allowed to operate.

Last May, San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten announced that 92 percent of the class of 2016 was on track to graduate. Trustees and supporters hailed it as a colossal success. But it turns out the 92 percent number refers only to students who fit a very specific definition. And it excludes thousands who left district schools.