A win-win, even if you don’t actually win.
That was the promise that helped make the Florida Lottery a reality.
Profits were pledged as extra money for the education budget, but the NBC2 Investigators have uncovered the Florida Lottery may not be the jackpot you think it is, for public education.
In the fiscal year 2016-2017, the vast majority of the money – 73 percent or $4.2 million – went to prizes, vendor fees, and administrative costs.
The other 27 percent, or $1.7 billion, went to education throughout the state.
Here’s how that money is divided up:
- Bright Futures Scholarships – $225,468,112
- Universities – $276,084,320
- Colleges – $273,796,073
- K-12 schools – $326,698,198
However, that nearly $327 million isn’t given to every K-12 school. Only schools that receive a grade of A or schools that improve at least one performance grade, or rating category, and sustain the improvement the following year.
In the Lee County during the 16-17 school year, 43 schools received school recognition funding from the Florida Lotter. In Collier County, 36 schools received the same funding, and in Charlotte County, only eight schools received the lottery money.
“It’s just not anywhere near the amount of money that people think that we get,” said Greg Blurton, the Chief Financial Officer for the Lee County School District.
Blurton said the Lee County School District received $3.6 million for the 16-17 school year. It costs approximately $3.8 million a day to operate the school district.
It’s the same throughout Southwest Florida. Charlotte County received roughly $566,000 from the Florida Lottery while it costs $600,000 to run the district each day.
“We actually were better off, in operating dollars, before the lottery,” said Charlotte County District Spokesperson Mike Riley.
In Collier County, the school got about $2.9 million from the Florida Lottery, and it costs $1.9 million per day for the district to operate.
When state lawmakers passed the lottery in 1987, they promised this money would not replace tax dollars meant for education. But Cathleen Morgan, chairman of the Lee County School Board, said that’s exactly what’s happened.
“Every dime counts, regardless of the source,” said Morgan. “The disappointment is that it’s been used as a substitute for another source, so those funds have been diverted elsewhere. The actual state funding of public education went down. We continue to under-invest in public education.”
In 1986, before the lottery was approved, the state funding made up 64 percent of the education budget. In 2017, state funding accounted for only 56 percent.
“The lottery money isn’t enhancement money,” Riley said. “It’s replacement money, and not as much money is being replaced.”
“Everybody thinks, ‘Wow, schools districts are getting millions and millions of lottery money every year,’ and it’s just not the case,” said Blurton.
But Representative Ray Rodrigues (R-76) said he believes it’s important to put these percentages into context.
“When the state of Florida was paying 64 percent [in 1986], the total education budget was $7.5 billion, Today, we’re paying 56 percent, but it’s a $20 billion budget. So that’s a much more significant amount of money,” said Rodrigues. “[Lottery money] was always supposed to supplant education, and that’s what it does.”