BY World's Editorial Writers
Thursday, January 06, 2011
1/06/11 at 5:32 AM
If public school funding woes have you wondering what ever happened to state lottery money that was supposed to help education, you're not alone.
The lottery has brought little more than $30 million a year to common schools. That's a lot of money, but not much of an increase in the state's education budget.
In fact, some have argued that it has hardly resulted in any effective increase in money actually getting to school districts because of the magic of state Capitol budgeting processes.
Education advocates argue that legislators have simply thrown the lottery money into the big pile of common schools appropriations and then shorted school districts of funding from other non-lottery sources - a process known as supplanting.
That certainly isn't what state voters thought they were getting when they approved the lottery.
State Sen. Eddie Fields, R-Wynona, wants lottery proceeds to be sent directly to school districts on a per-student basis. Districts would get their ordinary funding from the Legislature and a separate check from the lottery.
That way we could feel secure that the lottery money isn't being supplanted in the state budget and local school district patrons could see the direct effects of the lottery in their school systems.
It's a good and fair plan that will, for the first time, make sure that lottery money is being used in the fashion voters intended.
Taking the lottery money out of the appropriations process also would result in greater equity in its distribution to school districts. State aid to school districts is run through a formula that distributes money on a number of different criteria that always seems to leave Tulsa getting the short end of the stick.
A strict per-pupil distribution would mean a Tulsa student would represent the same amount of lottery funding as a student anywhere else in the state.
The Legislature should adopt Fields' plan and then find a way to fund education without counting the lottery money.