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Good Question: More New York Lottery money for Rochester schools?

Brennan Somers
Updated: February 18, 2020 07:03 AM
Created: February 17, 2020 03:31 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — There's no getting around it. Rochester school leaders need help.

If the budget crisis isn't fixed soon, they could run out of money in just a few months and be forced to cut hundreds of jobs.

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Many of you have been wondering if Albany will bail them out, or at least offer more help, perhaps through the state's lottery. News10NBC’s Brennan Somers got answers for this week's Good Question.

It's been more than 50 years since the launch of the New York Lottery. The original slogan was "Your chance of a lifetime to help education."

The lottery promised to help schools across the state, and while it has done a lot, several viewers asked Brennan, why can't the lotto do more to help Rochester right now?

The winners get the biggest cut of all the money for the game — about 60%. The second-largest split, which is about a third, goes to the state's education system.

Since 1967, the New York Lottery has earned nearly $70 billion to help schools statewide. It brought in nearly $3.5 billion last year.

So, how is all that divided up among districts?

The money from lotto ticket sales goes to hundreds of school systems. It's split based on several factors, including size and income level. They add it up using a formula, which is the same formula used to distribute other state aid.

It's not set up to help any single struggling school district more than another, even if there’s a sudden need.

Keep in mind, Rochester gets more than most. RCSD and Buffalo are the only two upstate districts to have received more than $1 billion over the lifetime of the lottery.

Last year, Rochester received $68 million. Some lawmakers have spent years trying to increase how much lotto money goes to schools by taking away how much is set aside for prizes.

Western New York Sen. Tim Kennedy is one of them.

"It's actually specifically written to say that the change in the equation — any new funding — will go directly into our children and their education and their futures," the Democratic lawmaker told News10NBC’s Buffalo affiliate in 2017. "We're dealing with an equation that was put in place 50 years ago. It's about time New York state gets in line with the 21st century."

Kennedy says they also try to make changes in the budget itself. He sent the following statement to News10NBC regarding plans to keep pushing this legislation in Albany.       

"As someone who comes from a family of teachers, I’ve seen firsthand how our educators often struggle to help our students succeed due to funding shortfalls, often dipping into their own pockets to bridge that gap and ensure our children have the resources they need.

Education has remained a top priority for me since taking office, and while I understand that this state lottery money can go towards a multitude of different programs, I firmly believe that the best investment we can make is in our children. Every year when the budget rolls around, we’re fighting for every dollar we can get Western New York school districts, but despite our efforts, it unfortunately seems there will always be a gap. In last year's enacted budget, some minor changes to the lottery formula were included that increased education funding by $30 million, demonstrating that even a small tweak can make a difference.

Through this bill, I believe we can do better. By using a bigger portion of lottery dollars towards educating our youth and investing in their futures, we will undoubtedly win the real jackpot, and the impact will be transformative."

For some perspective, RCSD’s lifetime total received from the lottery comes in at about $1.2 billion. Last year's budget for RCSD hit nearly a billion dollars.

Bottom line? Of course, every dollar counts, but an emergency bailout from the lottery isn't a real option.

If you have a question you'd like answered, send Brennan an email at GoodQuestion@whec.com.


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