9 Investigates

9 Investigates how much the Florida lottery really gives back to students

The Florida Lottery is a well-run and efficient state agency that delivers on its core mission of offering games and raising money for education.  But, what happens to that money, you’ll need to head about a mile west along Apalachee Parkway to the state Capitol to get that answer.

Since the lottery was approved by voters in 1986, it has generated more than $30 billion for education with money going to scholarships, bonds, colleges, universities, and K-12 education; with about 15% going to the K-12 budget.  But, as educators point out, that isn’t extra money.

“I think it’s a big shell game and I think the public is finally being made aware of it,” says Lake County school board member Bill Mathias.  “People always ask, ‘where is the lottery money” and it goes to education don’t misunderstand, but it has allowed the Legislature to move general dollars away from education and use them for something else.”

As Mathias points out, since the lottery launched, the state has reduced its contribution to education by 10%, using the lottery to backfill.

“The net gain has been basically zero,” says Mathias.

“It was promised that all these billions of dollars would go to the classroom and would make it so Florida education would never want for anything,” says education advocate and Orange County parent Kathleen Oropeza.

For the Florida Legislature, the shifting of funds is a bipartisan effort that has been in place for decades.  In recent years some lawmakers have suggested restoring general revenue funding to pre-lottery level, although to do so would mean cuts in other areas or an increase in taxes.

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