Our schools need money. Can't they use Florida Lottery funds?

Clay and Duval counties considering tax hikes to fix, replace schools

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter, Steve Patrick - News4Jax digital managing editor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With Duval and Clay counties now requesting referendums asking voters to increase sales tax one-half cent to fund schools, many are raising the question that comes up over and over: Weren't the proceeds of the Florida Lottery supposed to benefit education?

That question was one of dozens submitted this week through our 4 Your Info tool.

Yes, when Florida voters approved the lottery, it specified that the proceeds would go to education. But the amendment specified the money would finance enhancements and was not meant to replace funding already allocated for teachers, programs and exsiting programs.

First, only a little over a quarter of the money people spend on lottery tickets makes it to the FLordia Department of Education. About 65% of lottery money funds the prizes. And additional 8% is split between those who sell the tickets, lottery administration and vendor fees. That leaves about 27% to flow into the FDOE.

How much money are we talking?

FDOT expects to have $1.9 billion in the Educational Enhancement Trust Fund next year, but the funds are divided up among 67 counties and college scholarships, as well. And there are a lot of limits on how lottery money can be used.

Last year, Duval County received $5.3 million from the Florida Lottery. Over 15 years, even expecting there'll be some revenue growth, it might total $100 million.

The Duval County School Board says it needs $1.9 billion to revamp or replace the district's oldest schools. They anticipate that the sales tax, over 15 years, would bring in $1.4 billion.

Duval County Public Schools' annual total budget last year was $1.5 billion. For perspective, even if lottery funds could be used to fund Duval County's overall budget, the allocation would only fund one day of its nearly 200 schools.

WATCH: Comparing amount of money 2 school districts receive from Florida Lottery

Clay County said it needs $650 million to update its aging schools. Clay County received $2.3 million in lottery funds in the past school year.

But there's another reason lottery funds could not substitute for tax revenue to pay for new or better school buildings: it's against the law. The amendment that created the Florida Lottery says districts must spend 90% of lottery funds they receive for specific programs such as faculty bonuses and classroom supplies. It specifically says the money cannot be used for maintenance or new construction. 

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