Every state fortunate enough to have its own lottery contributes part of those proceeds to the direct education of its students and the betterment of its schools. Florida’s state lottery is not the largest lottery nationwide, yet it is very successful and contributes greatly to its community by aiding the education of this present generation and generations to come.
Florida’s Contribution in Lottery
The lottery is a give and take game. The player “gives” a dollar for a scratch-off card called “Solid Gold” and should they master the 1-in-2,520,000 odd, they can take their $5,000 winning (“#640 Solid Gold,” 2005). The lottery gives and takes in a completely different way in that it gives not only to its elated winners, but a portion of the money made from scratch-off cards and lottos directly aids the given state’s public school systems. Since its inception in 1986, the Florida Lottery has made $17 billion in contributions to state-regulated education; for their 2005-06 fiscal year, $1.22 billion of their $3.93 billion of generated sales went to Florida school systems.
The discussion of gambling has always been met with criticism from religious communities or those hurt by a family member or friend addicted to gambling. It has its negatives and positives, like any facet of life and like someone once said “All things in moderation”. The return yielded from state lotteries like Florida’s is anything short of moderate, however. Florida’s official lottery site quoted its governor, Charlie Crist, in a recent article stating, “With the money the Florida Lottery continues to contribute, we will be closer to reducing class sizes in public schools and increasing funding for state universities and community colleges” (Barreiros, 2007, para. 2). He continued by mentioning one of the scholarship series fully funded by the lottery, that is the Bright Futures Scholarship Program.
The Bright Futures Scholarship Program began in 1997 by Florida’s legislature with the goal of giving high school graduates with a GPA of 2.74 or higher the opportunity “to enroll in state universities, community colleges, and workforce education programs of their choice” (“What is the Florida..?,” 2005, para. 1; “Make the Grade!,” 2005, para. 4; Barreiros, 2007, para. 5). The scholarships are divided into threes: The Florida Academics Scholar’s Award, the Florida Medallion Scholar’s Award, and the Florida Gold Seal Vocational Scholars Award (“Florida Bright Futures..,” 2006, para. 2). With a GPA of 3.0, a student is eligible to receive the Florida Academics Scholar’s Award; the remaining scholarships require a GPA of 2.75 or higher and differ according to completed credit hours (“Make the Grade!,” 2005, para. 17). Over 140, 000 scholarships were conferred in the 2005-06 award year and (“What is the Florida..?,” 2005, para. 2).
The Florida Legislature took this scholarship series one step further, however. Depending on the school or education program of their choice, students who are eligible to win and even do win one of these scholarships may still need additional funds. According to the Florida Lottery site, over $124 million dollars has been given solely to government-funded student financial aid in the past which helps to ensure that a student’s additional tuition can also be sponsored by lottery funds.
It is the substantial amount of lottery funds that help the nation’s fourth largest state support its 67 school districts. And no doubt the lottery is to thank for allowing the “Sunshine State”, amongst seven other states, the ability to expand and improve upon its school choice programs in this past year (Feinberg & Lips, 2006). School choice programs concern a parent’s ability to remove their child(ren) from a failing or unsafe school and place them in a better environment (“Program Support Operations,” 2005). Schools which receive Title I funds from the government are eligible for this program.
Florida’s skill in stretching its lottery dollars so successfully, for opportunities such as the school choice programs, are due the state’s statutes which require that at least 50% of the profits from ticket sales be returned to the public by way of prizes, as well as 39% being transferred to the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund (“Florida Lottery Facts..,” 2005). Proceeds from this 39% are allotted first to the Bright Futures Scholarship Program (“Florida Lottery Facts..,” 2005). Residual monies pay for the Lottery Department’s overhead, including payment of employees, “lottery operations”, and advertising.
With so much of Florida’s lottery money purportedly benefiting public schools, what is the present state of the public schools really like? Teachers in Florida work hard under the guidelines of the No Child Left Behind Act, but unfortunately, numerous news articles report from last year into March of this year that a Florida teacher’s pay is ranked 32nd overall in the nation and even that placement is unsteady. The value of Florida’s lottery funds in relation to students simply cannot be denied, but obviously a percentage of these funds could stand to gravitate towards those who facilitate the education of this generation. Because this is the mentality of many, critical discussion about this continues to circulate and make headlines.
As far as literal construction of the classroom is concerned, more than 600 statewide public school construction projects have been undertaken, including both new school construction and additions to existing establishments. The purpose of this construction is a resulting desire by the legislature and public school parents to see their children in smaller classrooms and to get more one-on-one attention like every child needs and deserves.
Like the former Secretary of the Florida Lottery, Rebecca Mattingly, once said in an interview, she has a glass-is-half-full mentality about the lottery because no one truly loses-the player may not get his or her five dollars back in cash, but it is returned to them as our future generation receives more one-on-one attention in smaller classrooms and as high school graduates receive Bright Future scholarships to the college of their choice. That perspective certainly makes the give part of a give and take game a lot easier.
- Solid Gold. (n.d.). Retrieved April 23, 2007, from http://www.flalottery.com/ inet/scratchoff$gamesdetailmain.do?gamenumber=640
- Barreiros, Jacqueline. (2007) Governor Crist applauds the Florida lottery’s $17 billion contribution to education. Retrieved April 23, 2007 from http://www.flalottery. Com/inet/generalnewscontent.do?searchid=193826
- Feinberg, Evan & Lips, Dan. (2006). School choice: 2006 progress report. Retrieved April 23, 2007, from http://www.heritage.org/research/education/bg1970.cfm
- Florida lottery facts-where does the money go? (2005). Retrieved April 23, 2007, from http://www.palmbeach.k12.fl.us/FinMan/FINANCIALDIVISIONS/ budget/PDF/LotteryBrochureFY05.pdf
- Florida lottery funds contribute to more than 600 statewide school projects. (2005). Retrieved April 23, 2007, from http://www.flalottery/inet/educationschool construction.do
- Make the grade! (2006). Retrieved April 23, 2007 from, http://www. firn.edu/doe/ brfutures/bffactsheet.htmaq/ Program support operations. (2005). Retrieved April 24, 2007 from, http://www. fldoe.org/default.asp?dept=17&ID=293#q293
- Rivera, Michelle. (2005). Florida lottery. Retrieved April 23, 2007 from http://www. Redcoatpublishing.com/spotlights/sl_10_05_floridalottery.asp
- The 2006 Florida Statutes. (2006). Florida bright futures scholarship. Retrieved April 23, 2007, from http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?mode=view%20 statutes&s…atute&search_string=bright+futures+scholarship&url=ch1009/sec 53.htm
- The merit pay chronicles: the Florida story. (2006). Retrieved April 24, 2007 from, http://educationwork.blogspot.com/2006/10/merit-pay-chronicles-florida-story. html
- What is the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program? (2005). Retrieved April 23, 2007 from http://www.firn.edu/doe/brfutures/