MOUNT VERNON — Earlier this month, the Ohio Lottery announced a record sales year for fiscal year 2012, and transferred a record $771 million to the Lottery Profits Education Fund. The press release also stated 100 percent of lottery profits generated support public education K-12 in Ohio.
Local educators, school treasurers and education groups around the state consider those statements by the lottery commission can be misleading.
“It is a very common misconception to the public that as lottery money goes up schools receive more funding,” said Centerburg school superintendent Mike Hebenthal. “This simply is not true. What the state does is put the lottery money into the education line but then takes out the same amount and puts that back into the general fund.”
Danville school treasurer Mary Payne concurred. “When lottery profits increase, the state simply uses it to replace other funds,” she said. “It does not increase our funding.”
Hebenthal said the state sets the amount of school funding in the budget and that is the amount that will be given to schools regardless of the amount of money taken in by the lottery.
For fiscal year 2013, Ohio’s school foundation payment program funding for traditional and community schools, as established in the June 2011 budget, will be $7.2 billion.
Hebenthal said, “Without action from the legislature or governor to allow the budgeted amount of funding to increase, then it wouldn’t matter [to schools] if the lottery took in $100 billion since the amount budgeted cannot be increased and so that money flows back to the state.”
Mount Vernon City Schools Treasurer Judy Stahl-Reynolds also said increased lottery funds have not meant an increase in the district’s state funding.
“We have received one payment this fiscal year [which began July1], and the total amount of funding is essentially unchanged from the funding report from fiscal year 2012,” she said. “Unless there is a funding policy revision at the state level, I have no reason to believe that our state funding will change in either direction.”
Ellen Scott, treasurer of Centerburg school district, said that because of how lottery profits are distributed [or not] school treasurers are skeptical about promises made regarding casino profits. “If the legislature doesn’t change things,” she said, “we fear the casino profits will not benefit us either.”
Rob Nichols, press secretary for Gov. John Kasich, said the money placed in the Lottery Profits Education Fund is retained in that fund and does not go into the general fund. He said the legislature can go back and do something, but nothing is automatically freed up. Nichols said the biennium budget establishes the amount to be dispersed to the schools, and that does not change without legislative action. Overall, approximately 4 percent of public education funding comes from those lottery profits.
Nichols said the administration is working on a school funding formula, which will likely include lottery profit distribution. “We have been engaged with superintendents and principals for some time now getting ideas and sharing information.”