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Educating Oklahoma: Lottery And Other Funding Ideas

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

Ideas like district consolidation and split classrooms are just some of the ideas being considered to help the Oklahoma education system out of its funding crisis.

Many Oklahomans continue to ask about the lottery - wasn't it supposed to solve the funding problem for education? The law stated 35 percent of annual lottery proceeds would go to education for the first 12 years.

That's about $190 million a year in gross receipts - allocating about $66 million to education.

But the money had to be split up between common ed, higher ed and career tech,  with common ed taking the largest chunk. That means, through the last fiscal year, K through 12 schools got about $30 million each year from the lottery.

But considering the common ed budget is more than $2 billion, the lottery money comprises less than two percent.

One of the money saving ideas floated around year after year is school consolidation. Did you know there are 512 school districts across in the Sooner State making up nearly 1,800 Oklahoma schools.

Rural lawmakers often block legislation saying the savings would be minimal, compared to the irreparable harm to their communities from schools being closed. Five consolidation-related bills were introduced at the start of this session - all are now dead.

Educate Oklahoma

Governor Mary Fallin did issue an executive order last fall, mandating administrative consolidation. The State Board of Education must provide a list of school districts that spend less than 60 percent of budgets on instruction by September 1st. 

We'll keep an eye on it.

State funding problems are forcing some districts to put elementary students from two different grades in one classroom. Oklahoma City Public Schools currently have 18 split classrooms and the distinct is looking into tripling that number next year.

"I don't think it's appropriate to put kids in a classroom that's a multi-grade classroom where the teacher is ill-prepared and has not been trained, and there's not a process to make that successful," said Mark Mann, Oklahoma City school board member.

Board members like Mark Mann and many parents tell us they hope money will be moved around to avoid split classrooms as a solution.

A new funding source for education could be State Question 788 which would legalize medical marijuana. It's on the ballot in June, and if it passes, 75 percent of the sales tax surplus would go into the general fund to be used for education.

But there's no way to know if there will be a surplus because the tax is used first to cover the cost of the program.

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