Monday, August 1, 2016

Letter from a Reader

Q: "I have one question...
 when the lottery vote was put before Oklahomans (I didn't vote for it), it was promised all of this money would be poured into the schools.  Really?  Where is it?
Donna P"

A: Good question.  The lottery was oversold as a way to create jobs for term limited and retiring legislators and their cronies and to provide advertising dollars to the media.  It took in around 200 million last year and paid out 35% of that to schools but K-12 gets less than half of that and Higher Ed (colleges) get around 27% of the take.
Of the total income only 45% gets paid out as winnings to those who gamble.  If 35% goes to the schools then that leaves 20% to pay for the lottery commission salaries, overhead, and advertising.  So for every dollar going to education the ex legislators and their cronies receive 57 cents.

All in the lottery proceeds is around 1.7% of the total education budget.   Liquor by the Drink taxes were also passed to end all education funding problems but the proceeds are about one percent of all tax revenues in the state, around $24.00 per person, 20 cents per six pack of beer.  Add to that the promise of horse racing, casinos, and1017 were also sold as the end all fix to education funding.  The 1017 Fund provides around $700 million per year out of a 12 billion dollar education budget.   Casino compact fees produce around $125 million per year and a part of that money goes to horse racing tracks and around 30 million goes to the Oklahoma Horse Racing Commission.

So to answer your question Donna, none of these schemes were every set up to fund education in a meaningful way but were set up to fund ad dollars, fill tribal coffers, and employ out of work politicians and their family members.  Education was used to sell the laws, like the lottery commission ads from a few years back touting the buses and textbooks bought with lottery proceeds.  The problem being that state tax funds are used for school salaries, not buses and textbooks but hey, it looked good on TV I guess.

Next week we will be doing an entire issue on education.  The fact is that teachers are WELL paid for 180 days of work and six hours a day.   They earn on average over $50,000 per year in salary for 1080 hours of work including their retirement benefits which puts them in the middle of the pack nationwide for teacher pay.  The fact is that Oklahoma has a much lower cost of living for food, energy, and housing so these dollars go further in Oklahoma