How do you get more from less?
The answer is you can’t.
There are bills in consideration at the State Legislature that would eliminate the requirement that the state lottery turn over 35 percent of its revenue to public education.
For years, lottery officials have wanted to see that mandatory payment dropped. Their argument is that by keeping more of the money designated for education, they can offer bigger prizes and then more money will wind up in education coffers.
The Legislature put in the 35 percent mandate in order to convince voters to pass the state lottery. At the time, ex-Gov. Brad Henry, a liberal Democrat, promised that the “education lottery” would bring in $300,000,000.00 a year public schools. Instead, it has given about $750 million to schools over an 11-year run. And those numbers are going down.
There are a lot of problems with state lotteries.
First, in Oklahoma, they are competing not only with the 130-plus tribal casinos but also with concerts, college football, the NBA and a whole lot of other destinations for the entertainment dollar. Secondly, playing a lottery is like throwing money away. The overwhelming odds are that you will never win. You have a 1-in-8 chance of winning a horse race – no such luck with a lottery.
Sen. Kim David, an author of the bill, is promoting a lesson to state school children – the way to improve school funding is for your parents to gamble more.
Is that a constructive principle to teach?
This proposal has drawn the endorsement of the Oklahoma Education Authority (teachers’ union) and Tulsa Public Schools, among others. That alone is reason for suspicion about the viability of this scheme.
Public schools can be fixed, but not by making state lottery officials happy.