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State representative’s proposition may be taking a gamble with public school funding

David Shane via Flickr

Republican floor leader John Diehl is hoping to add the statewide lottery to the 2016 ballot for a revote he announced Wednesday. Diehl wants to give the public an opportunity to reconsider the value of the lottery and its relationship with the public school system.

The Missouri lottery allocates a portion of its revenue to the public school system every year for 30 years since 1984. Diehl says in a press release with the Missouri Times that those education-allocated funds are slowly declining and the public is being misled regarding the amount of good the lottery does for the community. He questions the integrity of a relationship between state public schools and gambling.

This proposition comes on the heels of a marketing ad for the state lottery that shows kids learning in classrooms and crafting art projects. The campaign promotes playing the lottery as a means of "playing it forward" and endorsing education.

Financial and administrative coordinator for Missouri’s Department of Primary and Secondary Education Roger Dorson said that the lottery provides the system with a “substantial amount of money” that supports school programs and services.

“Sixty-nine million of that money went to transportation and 57 million went into the equity portion of the basic formula,” Dorson said.

Financial records from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education show that lottery and gaming revenue make up 11 percent of their 2014 budget. The Missouri Lottery website cites that schools receive 24.5 cents of every dollar and that for the 2014 fiscal year proceeds were around $267 million.

Diehl said in a press release that the lottery is a "shell game" and educational funding remains to be an unsolved problem the state needs to address. If his proposition passes Diehl said he is confident the General Assembly will agree to fund education through general revenue.

Dorson said this is a legislative issue and only the state knows what their funds are capable of offering the public school district.

“Schools could always use more revenue; the formula right now is underfunded,” Dorson said. “We’ve come through an economic time period of the 2008 recession where revenues have been down and the school districts have made accommodations with changes in what they offer and income cuts. Certainly that’s always an issue at debate.”