Money from gambling may be making its way into the classrooms. Or maybe not.
When Virginia voters approved the lottery back in 1987, the idea was that all that money would go to schools. And that’s what happened. But that’s not all that happened. Since that time, state leaders have been supplanting money from the general fund that was supposed to go to education to other programs. Kathy Burcher at the Virginia Education Association says that’s a shell game.
“The general public believes that the lottery funding is the icing on the cake when, in fact, it’s the cake. And so when the General Assembly is shifting programs into lottery funding through the general fund, that’s supplanting of dollars. It’s not additional dollars.”
This week, Governor Ralph Northam submitted a budget that supplants $80 million — following the lead of former Governor Terry McAuliffe. But Chris Duncome at the Commonwealth Institute says the House budget is much better because it returns about $64 million to the general fund for education.
“And I really think that is how the lottery fund dollars were intended to be used, as a way of maximizing our investment in K-12 schools rather than just as some sort of budgetary tool for moving money around.”
Also at issue is a 2 percent raise for teachers. Northam’s budget and the House budget both include raises for teachers. But the Senate budget does not. That means those budget negotiations in Richmond will have dramatic consequences for schools across Virginia.