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Paying for Michigan Schools: Doesn't the lottery do that?

Steve Carmody

You can hardly find a bar in Michigan that doesn't feature video screens offering you a chance to get rich and help Michigan schools. The lottery has done such a good marketing job of telling players they're helping Michigan schools that people have an inflated idea of how much the lottery money helps.

David Martell is the Executive Director of Michigan School Business Officials. He says it's true the Lottery does help.

"The lottery itself, yes, it was supposed to help school funding. And it does a pretty good job. And we now have six seven hundred million dollars coming into School Aid," Martell says.

This past year the lottery put $724-million dollars in the kitty for schools. But when you're dealing with a nearly $13-billion in state dollars, that lottery money only amounts to a small fraction of the state money for schools.

"The lottery monies are only about five to six percent of the total budget. So, they can be doing great, but it's not enough extra money there to really drive the school aid budget," Martell said.

Contributions from the Lottery have grown fairly steadily over the years. Recently the legislature has reduced the amount of money it contributes from the general fund. Since the mid-1990s the amount has dropped from $600-million dollars a year in to about $30-million dollars a year these days. Some people say it's a shell game, the Lottery putting money in for schools in one place and the legislature cutting the amount for schools somewhere else. It's not quite that simple.

As more taxes have been earmarked specifically for schools, the legislature has reduced the amount of money schools get from the general fund. Still, there's no disputing that schools are not getting quite as much money as they were just a couple of years ago.

More info can be found:Michigan Lottery's Financial Contribution to Michigan EducationMichigan School Business Officers

Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.
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