Why didn’t the lottery save education in Oklahoma?

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OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma voters took a gamble on the lottery in 2004.

The measured creating a statewide lottery passed overwhelmingly by a vote of the people under Governor Brad Henry.

14 years later, crippled by an education funding crisis and teacher walkout, many Oklahomans are are asking: What happened to the lottery money? Why didn't the lottery fix our problem with education funding?

The Oklahoma Lottery Commission has been defending the contribution of Education Trust Fund for more than a decade.

"What you hear a lot around here is lottery never lived up to the promises," said Executive Director Rollo Redburn.

Oklahomans spend about $200 million dollars each year on lottery tickets.

When players buy a scratch-off ticket, most know some of the money is going to education.

For every ticket sold, 70 percent goes back to the jackpot.

30 percent goes to education funding. That 30 percent is divided between higher education and common education; 45 percent to elementary and secondary education, almost 40 percent to higher education.

Every year, the lottery generates about $60 million dollars for education.

That means about $30 million for Oklahoma's state colleges and $30 million for schools.

In public schools, the $30 million in lottery funding is used to supplement teacher pay and support staff positions; lottery money pays for early childhood programs like Kindergarten and Pre-K.

For some perspective on how far $30 million will stretch, it is actually less than two percent of the state's K-12 education budget.

The lottery provides two pennies for every one dollar appropriated at the state capitol.

Many Oklahomans remember the promises of Governor Henry and lottery advocates from the early 2000s: They said the Oklahoma Lottery could generate $300 million a year for education.

According to the Lottery Constitutional Provision, lottery funds are to be used to enhance and not supplant funding for education.

Governor Henry ran on the promise of instituting a statewide lottery.

"Look, we can bring $300 million new net dollars to Oklahoma right now. And we'll constitutionally prohibit the legislature from reducing general revenues as those lottery dollars come in," Henry said during a gubernatorial town hall meeting in November of 2002.

Turns out, neither the Oklahoma lottery nor the Oklahoma legislature could keep their word on those points.

According to the lottery commission, the Oklahoma lottery consistently generates $60 to $70 million in funding for education, no where near the $300 million originally promised.

Since 2008, the Oklahoma legislature has consistently reduced per pupil funding for education.

The Oklahoma Education budget has shrunk by 28 percent since 2008, more than any other state.​

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