Show Me The Money: How lottery funds education - Quincy News, Weather, Sports, and Radio

Show Me The Money: How lottery funds education

At a time when school budgets are shrinking, Illinois Lottery sales and profits are setting new records.

In the most recent fiscal year, the state lottery generated $793 million; $655.6 million of that went to schools.

But as many local school districts continue to slash budgets as state funding shrinks, administrators say "Show me the money." As it turns out, lottery funding is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to education funding.

Students at Illini West High School in Carthage can see the effects of budget cuts, including fewer teachers and larger class sizes. But future cuts could sting even more.

"There's nothing left to cut in school districts that's not going to be damaging to our students," Superintendent Kim Schilson said. "We've lost $1.3 million in funding in the last three years. When you have $5.5 million down to $4.5, that's a drastic 20% decrease."

But with lottery funding pumping hundreds of million of dollars into education, why are schools struggling?

"How that money is spent is not a lottery responsibility, but a legislative responsibility," Lottery Superintendent Mike Jones said.

Jones said the state has never used lottery money to boost education. 

Since 1985, all lottery profits are deposited into the Common School Fund. It's then up to state lawmakers to decide how that money is distributed.

"They took that lottery money and supplanted it," Schilson said. "So if the state was was putting in $100,000 or $1 million before and they ended up with a $1 million in lottery money, they put the $1 million in and took that million out and used it somewhere else."

So just how much of your lottery ticket is going to education? For every dollar you spend, 61 cents goes for prizes and 11 cents goes to expenses. That leaves 28 cents for schools.

But with dreams of hitting it big, Jones says many people will still play the lottery knowing if they don't hit the jackpot, some of their money is still helping local schools.

"Good thing there is a lottery I guess because where would our finances be if there wasn't that income?" Schilson said.

"Anybody would agree that the $640 million that the lottery generated for schools last year was an absolutely needed amount of money and certainly benefited schools," Jones said.

Lottery money in Illinois accounts for only about seven percent of the state's multi-billion dollar commitment to its 862 public school districts. Most of the money for schools comes from local property taxes and federal funding.

Illinois lottery proceeds also funded road and bridge construction to the tune of  $135 million this year, which Jones says helps create jobs.

Another $2.92 million generated from four "specialty-game" instant tickets helped fund causes to support Illinois veterans, the fight against breast cancer, MS research, and assistance for people living with HIV-AIDS.

The Missouri lottery put $289 million into education in Fiscal Year 2013 and in Iowa, $55 million went to the general state fund, which distributes money to several programs, including education.

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