Many Texans apparently have never outgrown fairy tales, although some fairy tales – like testing and privatization will help students, parents and educators live happily ever after – are too preposterous for anyone, except maybe Dan Patrick, to believe.
One 25-year-old fairy tale just won’t die, and that’s the one about the Texas Lottery putting public education on Easy Street. I still see Facebook comments wondering why the lottery isn’t solving one school budgetary problem or another, when, in fact, the lottery never has been a major financial contributor to public education and never was intended to be.
Voters, however, were encouraged to think that the lottery would be a financial windfall for schools when Gov. Ann Richards and legislative leaders were pushing the lottery in 1991 as a new revenue source. Voters approved it, and the misperception still hasn’t completely gone away.
The state’s share of lottery proceeds weren’t even dedicated to public education until 1997, and since then the lottery has contributed more than $19 billion to the Foundation School Program, including $1.225 billion in fiscal 2015.
That is a lot of money but only a small fraction of the more than $50 billion (with a b) in state, local and federal funds spent on public education each year. It’s a welcome drop in the bucket, but only the Legislature – not lottery players – can solve public education’s funding shortfall.
Many lottery players may have visions of unbelievable riches, but those are different fairy tales with (mostly) disappointing endings.