Schools’ Share of Lottery Less Than Expected

As students attend school, many of their parents and teachers are hopeful a state lottery will pay for those children to have a better education.

But that’s not necessarily the case. The amount of lottery proceeds going to public schools this year is $28 million, far less than the $150 million most people expected based on Gov. Brad Henry’s promises during the 2004 campaign, a legislative budget chief warned today.

Although many Oklahoma voters believed all lottery funds would go to the state’s K-12 public schools, State Rep. Jim Newport noted only a small fraction of the money will reach the classroom.

“Oklahomans were told the lottery was for education, which most people thought meant the local public schools,” said Newport, vice-chair of the House Appropriations and Budget Committee. “Unfortunately, Governor Henry’s plan gives public schools less than 14 cents out of every dollar spent on the lottery.”

Under Henry’s plan, approved by voters last November, only 13.5 percent of gross lottery proceeds are specifically earmarked for K-12 schools during the first two years of operation. After two years, common education’s share rises to only 16 percent of gross funds.

The remaining 86.5 percent will be divided between administration, prizes, teacher retirement, school consolidation efforts, and increased appropriations to Oklahoma colleges and universities, which have imposed record tuition rates this year.

Although Gov. Henry said the lottery would provide up to $150 million annually for education, K-12 schools will receive only $28 million in lottery funds during the 2005/2006 school year, the Ponca City Republican noted.

“In a $2.16 billion budget for public schools, that’s not much.”
If the lottery raises the money Henry projects – which does not appear likely – that figure might double next year, but would still fall far short of $150 million in new K-12 funding.

Even if Oklahoma did not have a lottery, Newport noted that lawmakers still increased K-12 education funding by more than $129 million this year – 360 percent more than the amount provided by the lottery.

“When you consider that lottery funding is both unproven and unstable, it’s probably a good thing we don’t depend on it more to help schools, but it’s clear the program is not providing the benefits the governor indicated,” Newport said.

Updated 11-22-2005

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