Today’s NewsOK article, “Lottery paid $400M to Oklahoma schools” by Megan Rolland is very misleading in addressing the issue of lottery funds “supplanting” rather than “supplementing” state education funds. Megan notes correctly:
The lottery law stipulates that the money is not supposed to supplant current education funding but is supposed to be in addition to education funding.
Megan does NOT, however, highlight the fact that lottery funds HAVE been used to supplant education funds. From what I understand, since the lottery was enacted (all ‘in the name of education’ and ‘for the kids,’ don’t know you know) education funding in Oklahoma has been flat. I’d like to see these specific numbers in an auditor’s report or research journal. Certainly our education funds have not increased statewide by $400 million in six years. The way lawmakers have done this has been to intentionally obfuscate the funding process for lottery dollars.
In the article Rolland quoted Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Karl Springer. She wrote:
But the money was never tracked properly, Springer said. The lottery law stipulates that the money is not supposed to supplant current education funding but is supposed to be in addition to education funding. The contribution is split with 45 percent going to prekindergarten through 12th-grade education, 45 percent going to support capitol projects for higher education, 5 percent going to the state’s school consolidation fund and the final 5 percent going to the teacher retirement system. For higher education, the money is easily tracked and there is a list of capitol improvement projects that the lottery has funded at colleges and universities across the state. But for common education the money goes directly into the state formula that distributes funding equally between school districts based on a student enrollment equation.
These statements by Springer ARE accurate. What’s confusing, however, is the quotation Rolland attributed to Springer just prior to that paragraph. Her quotation of Springer was:
It [the Oklahoma lottery] has generated $400 million that this state otherwise wouldn’t have had for schools.
This is a confusing quotation because it’s inaccurate. I wonder if it was a mis-quote. It would be true to say, “The Oklahoma lottery has generated additional revenue which would not have been otherwise brought into state coffers.” It is NOT accurate to say, “Our schools would have been $400 million poorer the past six years without the lottery.” By law state officials were supposed to use lottery funds to INCREASE (the technical word is “supplement”) education funding rather than keep it flat. Again, however, my understanding is that state officials have kept funding flat. They have used lottery funds to replace general revenue funds in direct violation of the letter of the lottery law, which prohibits supplanting education dollars with gambling profits.
If my understanding of this situation is inaccurate please enlighten and correct me. Again, I’d like to see the total amount of Oklahoma legislature allocated dollars for education for the past six years in absolute dollars, and also see those numbers adjusted for inflation. My understanding and expectation is you will NOT see in either set of statistics an increase of $400 million over the past six years. Yet if Oklahoma legislators had followed the law which was passed, that’s exactly what we SHOULD see.
According to numbers reported by sunshinereview.org, our state education budget in 2011 was $3.6 billion. It is not clear what that total number was in past years, however. According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s October 2011 report, “The Oklahoma Education Lottery,” lottery funds have been put into the general fund rather than put directly toward education.
[OKLAHOMA] Lottery net proceeds are divided between several education agencies as set out by the statutes. For the most part, lottery revenues have been blended with other revenues to support general operating expenses, rather than being dedicated to any distinct, ongoing, and identifiable purpose. Current year (FY ’12) appropriations includes $63.1 million of lottery revenues out of total state appropriations of $6.5 billion, or 1.0 percent
This is certainly NOT the message communicated by the official Oklahoma state lottery page for education, which paints a misleading picture that education funding in our state has increased because of the lottery. This is FALSE and misleading.
We do need accountability in Oklahoma education and politics, and this situation with lottery funds supplanting public education dollars is a perfect place to demand it as citizens. I’m confused by the way these issues of lottery funds “supplanting” rather than “supplementing” were addressed in this NewsOK article today. That is frustrating, but it’s also frustrating to see the unnecessarily complicated way our state legislators have created a funding formula which makes it impossible to “track the dollars” for K12 spending. This is a clear example of intentional, legislative, budgetary obfuscation. That’s a complex way to say, “our elected officials are cooking the books to hide illegal actions.”
If I’m wrong here, please explain why and let’s analyze the real state education budget dollar totals together. I think I’m on track, however, and it’s extremely disappointing to see how voters in Oklahoma were misled and CONTINUE to be misled when it comes to the lottery.
The Oklahoma lottery has NOT been a “win” or a “financial boon” to K12 schools. Instead, it’s been yet another case of politicians acting in ways which LOSE rather than win public trust. The lottery should have brought $400 million MORE dollars to our public schools in Oklahoma in the past six years. It hasn’t, and we should demand our legislators remedy this situation rather than continue a funding process which makes the financial details surrounding the lottery and schools murky and confusing.
When I posted the following image to my Photo 365 blog last year, I titled it, “A Legislative Obfuscation.”
This was a billboard in Oklahoma City just outside Will Rodgers airport. Reading today’s article about the lottery, we can see this billboard presents a misleading message to an all-too-often naive public. Rather than saying “more than $400 million has been contributed to Oklahoma education through the lottery,” the sign should truthfully read:
More than $400 million of funding to Oklahoma schools has been illegally supplanted by the state lottery, in violation of the promises made by lawmakers to the public and in direct violation of the letter of the law.
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