COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Lottery jackpots are climbing to new records — and the Ohio Lottery Commission benefits from the hype.
Profits from the lottery in Ohio go straight into a state-managed fund for K-12 education, and some of that money goes into the private sector.
Massive lottery jackpots, including a record-shattering $2 billion dollar Powerball this month, have become more frequent in recent years. That’s by design, as Powerball and Mega Millions raised the price of tickets and increased the amount of numbers to choose from, making it harder to win.
The excitement surrounding these monster jackpots is a great way to sell tickets. Thanks in part to those sales, Ohio’s Lottery Profits Education Fund received its largest payment ever from the lottery commission to close out fiscal year 2022.
After operating costs and prize payouts, about 24 cents of each dollar spent on a lottery game in Ohio is considered profit, according to the Ohio Lottery Commission. It all goes into the fund.
“Where that money goes — how it’s doled out — is not done by us,” said Danielle Babb, the spokesperson for the Ohio Lottery Commission. “It’s done by the Department of Education.”
Expenditures for the Lottery Profits Education Fund are searchable on Ohio Checkbook, an online interactive database through the Ohio Office of Budget and Management.
The fund, worth $1.4 billion in FY 2022, included expenditures to local school districts, STEM schools, vocational schools, special needs schools, and hundreds of charter schools.
In some cases, individual charter schools received more funding from the LPEF than entire local school districts.
Kipp Columbus, a charter school with a sprawling, gated campus that serves “more than 2,000 students,” according to its website, received more than $12 million in LPEF money in FY 2022.
Columbus City Schools, which serves more than 47,000 students, received $5.8 million from the same fund that year.
“The General Assembly, generally, is not deciding at an individual school district level that Columbus City Schools is going to get X-million and Dublin is going to get Y-million, and Reynoldsburg is going to get a different amount,” said Aaron Rausch, chief of budget and school funding with the Ohio Department of Education. “There is a, you know, larger school funding formula, though, that the General Assembly does vote on.”
Rausch said it is important to look at the entire picture of school funding, of which lottery profits are just one part.
The lottery fund is about 10 to 12 percent of the state’s entire education budget, and the school funding formula is applied to that budget as a whole, Rausch said.
The formula includes factors like the number of students and where schools draw their revenue.
Columbus City Schools, for instance, gets funding from both state and local sources, including property taxes, Rausch said. Charter schools like Kipp Columbus only generate revenue from state foundation funding.
According to Rausch, schools in more affluent districts (and therefore, more revenue from local taxes) receive a smaller share from the state. Upper Arlington, for example, received $366,000 from the LPEF in FY 2022. The district is home to more than 6,300 students.
Critics of charter schools, also known as community schools, question whether those institutions should even be part of the equation.
“We’ve created this inefficient, ineffective privatization system that is really harming the public sector,” said Bill Phillis, a former assistant state superintendent who now leads the Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding.
Phillis, who has successfully sued the state for more funding for local school districts, pointed to the fact that many charter schools are run by non-profit or for-profit corporations.
“Their private management operators are not subject to public records requests,” Phillis said. “There’s really no accountability for the use of the public funding, and there’s no accountability in terms of how these young people are achieving.”
Advocates for charter schools, like the Buckeye Institute’s Greg Lawson, argue the exact opposite.
“I would push back on the notion that there isn’t any accountability at all,” Lawson said.
Charter schools are considered public schools under Ohio law. That means they’re held to certain academic standards and audited by the state.
Lawson pointed to the fact that is possible to shut down a charter school that is not up to standards.
“I think one of the biggest challenges we see is there’s a perception, I think, that that money belongs to the (district) schools,” Lawson said. “I think that a more appropriate way to look at things would be the money is intended to achieve an outcome.”