State senator proposes $5B lottery revenue for school construction
- Maryland Democratic State Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., also a candidate for governor, has proposed using up to $5 billion in state lottery proceeds to pay for school construction projects in the state's largest five school districts, according to The Washington Post.
- The BEACONS Act would help pay for construction and renovation backlogs in districts with 75,000 students or more by adding the proceeds to funds already set aside for school construction and renovation projects.
- One critic of Madaleno's plan said the extra money should be spread across all school districts, not only the largest. Madaleno co-sponsored a bill in 2013 that netted Baltimore City Public Schools $1 billion, which has gone toward rebuilding 26 schools. Education is expected to be a big issue in the gubernatorial race.
Several states have touted the lottery as the fix for their schools' financial woes, but it's not always the panacea that some lawmakers have made it out to be. At the very least, there is usually disagreement about how the money is allocated.
For instance, in Oklahoma, 30%, or $60 million, of the $200 million in annual lottery sales goes towards education. However, of that $30 million, half goes to state colleges, leaving only $30 million for schools, none of which goes toward construction. In nearby Texas, lottery sales weren't what state officials anticipated but have raised $21 billion since 1992. Still strapped for cash, some state officials have proposed legalizing sports betting in order to help funnel more money into education programs.
When Florida passed its lottery legislation back in the 1980s, it won support because voters believed that schools would benefit. The "extra money" soon turned into a way to simply meet the budget after state lawmakers began to defund education after the lottery legislation went into effect.
Rather than wait for state money to fully fund their programs, some school districts have taken it upon themselves to finance the new schools they need. The Los Angeles Unified School District launched a $27 billion bond program to fund two decades' worth of school construction projects valued at $10 billion. The last of the district's construction projects wrapped up about a year ago with completion of the $160 million Maywood Center for Enriched Studies.
- The Washington Post Madaleno proposes $5 billion for school construction from lottery revenue
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