Is Oklahoma Lottery money helping education in Oklahoma

by: Janna Clark Updated:

The Oklahoma Lottery has now sent more than $600 million to education.

The majority of Oklahomans voted for the lottery in 2004. All the profit is supposed to help education.

FOX23’s Janna Clark has been covering this issue since before that vote. Now, a decade later, Clark looked into whether the lottery money is really extra money for education.

Two Tulsans FOX23 talked to said they bought lottery tickets for this reason –

“Win some money,” said one person.

“I wanna be a great big winner,” said another.

They also want what they spend to go to education.

“That'll keep me buying them,” said one.

“That's where it's supposed to be going,” said another.

“I get more questions when I’m out there answering questions on lottery than anything else,” said Tulsa Public School superintendent Dr. Keith Ballard. 

Ballard said he pushed for an education lottery.

“Do you think the lottery has lived up to its promises?” asked Clark.

“No I really don't think it lived up to its promises,” he said.

That’s because in 2004 voters voted not just for an education lottery, but for a second question that was supposed to guarantee the money would be "extra" money for education. Ballard doesn't think it is.

“I think that's where they made the big mistake,” he said.

FOX23 found out all lottery profits go to the state and essentially into a big pot, then the legislature decides how schools can use it.

“They just rolled the lottery money in with all the other general revenue money,” said Ballard.

He thinks knowing that lottery money's there could change how much lawmakers decide to give to education.

He said the lottery money should be in a separate fund to make sure it's extra money.

Oklahoma Lottery executive director Roll Redburn said the lottery gives about $60 million to education each year.

“Do you think the lottery has really helped education?” asked Clark.

“Absolutely $600 million they wouldn't otherwise had,” said Redburn.

“Where does the money go?” asked Clark.

“When our money comes in we give it to the state,” said Redburn.

He agreed the lottery should go into a separate fund.

“Yes I would rather it be allocated out so people knew how much they got and then the public knew how it was spent,” said Redburn.

There is a check and balance, the State Board of Equalization is supposed to make sure the lottery money is truly extra and so far the board decided it has been.

“Is there any way to really know it's extra money?” asked Clark.

“My opinion on that I’ll just keep to myself,” said Redburn.

Ballard doesn't think so.

“I don't consider it extra at all,” said Ballard.

“Could they fix it?” asked Clark.

“Yes,” said Ballard.

He said the legislature needs to create a law to make things right.

“It gets back to promises made. That was the intention when the lottery passed that's what people believed they were voting for,” said Ballard.

FOX23 talked to a lawmaker from Midwest City who said he's tried to pass a bill for several years to create a separate fund for lottery money, but he said the bill never went anywhere.

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