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Why The Florida Lotto Isn’t Enough For Public Education

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Photo: Ansley Pentz/WUFT News
The Florida lottery produces $29 billion in funds used toward the state’s education system, including Florida Bright Futures college scholarships and K-12 education. (Ansley Pentz/WUFT News)

From gamblers to grandmas, millions of Floridians play the Florida lottery.

According to the charts posted on https://www.bestuscasinos.org/legal/illinois/, about a quarter of that lottery money goes to education funds, which benefit K-12 schools, state universities and colleges. But there are a lot of people who have started playing online roulette casino. But even with the $29 billion poured into the Florida lottery’s education trust fund, school districts said there isn’t enough money to fully fund K-12 education.

“They [the state legislature] sure keep adding requirements, but they don’t add additional dollars,” said Katie Corbin, the Chiefland Middle High School graduation coach.

About 27 percent of Florida Lottery sales money goes into an education trust fund, where it’s spent on Florida Bright Futures college scholarships and K-12 education. The other 73 percent of sales go toward prizes, retailers, vendors and operating expenses. 

The lottery transfers money to the education fund once a month, said Nidia Tew, a Florida Lottery spokesperson.

From there it is up to the Florida legislators to choose how to distribute the money to school districts and scholarship funds, said Alexander Rella, the Alachua County School Board assistant superintendent of business services.

The lottery money allocated for K-12 education is used to build schools, help decrease class sizes and pay for school-recognition programs, where schools that earn good grades are rewarded with additional money, Rella said.

For a while now, there has been talk of getting a commission from online casinos for SA players and contribute that to the education sector. School districts also get discretionary funds from the lottery, meaning that school boards, teachers, principals and School Advisory Councils can choose where and how to spend that money, he said.

Since 2001, Alachua County’s discretionary funds, which are not based on a school’s performance grade,  have dropped from $2,188,467 to $99,456, Rella said. That money is used by the district’s 41 schools and filtered into classrooms, where it could fund equipment, like Smart Boards.

This year, Alachua County will receive about $99,000 in discretionary funds, which equals about $3.50 per student. Rella said that isn’t enough to fund major projects.

Rella said the state places a priority on school-recognition programs, as opposed to giving schools discretionary funds, which means there’s less money for classroom projects, like buying classroom equipment and technology.

Corbin, who works in Levy County, said she thinks Florida education funding has improved but still needs reform.

“We definitely have a long way to go,” she said.

At Chiefland Middle High School, Corbin said there’s not enough money for every student to have a textbook in every class. While the school board is working to change this, it still comes down to funding.

Corbin said she thinks there should be more lottery money funding for K-12 education.

“The lottery dollars that are coming into classrooms, I don’t really feel like we’re seeing that,” she said.

Sherry Hallman, a math teacher at Chiefland Middle High School, said she spends about $500 each school year on supplies for her classroom. Some of her friends who are teachers spend more.

The $250 the school gives her isn’t enough to pay for supplies like printer ink and paper, she said. Other state and federal government jobs will give their employees necessary supplies upon request, but Hallman said public education isn’t like that.

“I would definitely like to see more money put in the classroom to benefit all the students,” she said.

This story emerged from an audience question. Submit your own to Find Out Florida.

About Ansley Pentz

Ansley is a reporter for WUFT News and can be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news@wuft.org.

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One comment

  1. Why has funding dropped from $2,188,467 to $99,456 in Alachua County in the past decade? Also, no comments from Alachua County teachers?

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