School Officials Say Lottery Not Paying Off
A Green Country couple cashes in their $800,000 Powerball ticket. Russell and Kelly Shelby from Mounds claimed their winnings ticket at the lottery headquarters in Oklahoma City on Monday. The Shelbys plan to buy a new truck and invest in their retirement. The News On 6's Ashli Sims reports education leaders say the lottery isn't paying off for Oklahoma schools as originally promised.
It's touted as the education lottery. You play to win, but Oklahoma schools always hit the jackpot. Some school leaders say that pot of gold isn't as full as promised.
"It was a big deal to us. And we were all, and when I say 'we' I mean every school district in Oklahoma, were so excited about receiving it," said Nancy McKay, Jenks Chief Financial Officer.
The CFO for Jenks Public Schools says Powerball isn't quite packing the punch once promised.
"No, it has not been a windfall for education," said Nancy McKay with Jenks Public Schools.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett says last year the lottery raked in $17 million less than predicted. And, this year it's running short again by $4.5 million. Garrett says lawmakers have already included the lottery money in the state aid for schools. So if, it runs short, so do the checks to school districts across the state.
"We don't know even if the money will be there. So, it's very difficult to continue to plan," said Nancy McKay with Jenks Public Schools.
State school leaders say lawmakers are counting lottery dollars before they come in and shortchanging schools with state money.
The News On 6 checked state budget records and common education is the single biggest budget item. In 2005, education received about $2 billion, 37% of the overall budget. In 2006, the first year for the lottery, the dollar amount swelled to $2.5 billion, but education's share constricted.
That trend continued in 2007.
Some argue the lottery running a few million short is just a drop in the multi-billion dollar education bucket. But McKay says with costs increasing, every dollar counts.
"Ten new basketballs for their athletic department, and five new computers, and two new teachers can you see where this is headed," said Nancy McKay with Jenks Public Schools. "So yes, it is dollars we will miss. All of us will miss those dollars."
State Superintendent Sandy Garrett wants to see education funding return to its historical share of the state budget. And, she wants them to hand out lottery dollars only after they've been collected.