Oklahoma lottery increasing contribution to education

Oklahoma lottery increasing contribution to education

ELGIN, OK (KSWO) - The Oklahoma Lottery will increase the amount of money it will give to education but one local superintendent is skeptical that it will bring long-term solutions.

In the past, there was a rule in place that 35-percent of all lottery sales go towards Oklahoma education. In July 2017, that rule was lifted, instead setting aside a guaranteed $50 million for education each year. If there are any profits above that 50 million, it will also go to the schools to be used for reading and STEM programs. Lottery officials say lifting that rule has allowed them to raise the payouts for lottery tickets, which causes more people to buy tickets and, ultimately, brings in more money for schools.

Elgin superintendent Nate Meraz said any increase in revenue for education is a welcomed one.

"These minor things that they're doing and slight adjustments that appear to be common sense adjustments are appreciated," Meraz said. "We'll take any of that extra revenue and put it into programs here that fund our core mission which is educating our students and preparing them to become a productive member of our society."

The new law is projected to bring in $330 million for education over the next 5 years, which is $110 million more than what would have been given to education in that same time period before the law change. Meraz said he is appreciative of the change but said there is more work that needs to be done.

"The last thing we want is for anyone to think that this would solve all the problems for education," Meraz said. "We've seen through the years that the lottery has not done that and I'm sure it was never intended to do that."

Meraz said the problems with education lie much deeper than any money the lottery would be able to provide.

"Oklahoma, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, is coming at about $1,700 less per pupil on spending than the area states. Nationally we rank at the bottom or near the bottom. We know teacher pay is suffering and so really the conversation needs to be about a more permanent funding source for education," Meraz said.

Meraz said the lottery money does bring added hope, but he believes the legislature will need to work as one to find some kind of solution to fix our education crisis.

"Either restoring and looking at some of the tax credits and tax breaks over the year or new areas of funding that can be tapped into so that we fund education properly."

Meraz said he is hopeful our legislators can reach an agreement, but added that he knows there are lots of departments across the state also looking for more funding.

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