The lottery and education, a legend that won’t die


I think most of us were relieved long ago of the delusion that the Texas Lottery can be the financial savior – or even primary sponsor – of Texas’ public schools. Despite what the late Gov. Ann Richards may or may not have led anyone to believe when she was promoting the creation of the lottery during a budget crunch back in 1991, the lottery never was intended to be more than a contributor to public education. And, as it has turned out, a very minor contributor.

Occasionally, though, I still read online comments from newspaper readers that say something to the effect, “But I thought the lottery was paying for the schools.”

Here is what the lottery is doing, according to an old news release from the Texas Lottery Commission, which I found while cleaning some clutter off my desk.

During fiscal 2014 (roughly the 2013-14 school year), the lottery contributed $1.2 billion to the Foundation School Program, its largest annual contribution to public schools so far.

Granted, $1.2 billion is a lot of money. Everyone reading this item could split it and be very happy. But anyone want to venture a guess as to how much the total public education budget is in Texas for one school year?

More than $50 billion (with a b) in state, local and federal funds was spent on Texas public education during the 2014-15 school year, according to the Texas Education Agency. The lottery contributed less than 3 percent of that.

The lottery doesn’t raise enough a year to even cover the $5.4 billion in budget cuts imposed on public schools by the legislative majority in 2011.

During its 22-year history, the lottery has contributed more than $17 billion to education, less than half of what was spent on schools last year alone.

But go ahead and buy that lottery ticket. You are making a contribution to your neighborhood school, albeit a tiny one, about as tiny as your chances of striking it rich.






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