Thursday, January 06, 2000

Earmarking of lottery asked

Schools chief: Funding specific programs could improve lagging sales

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Earmarking a portion of lottery profits for specific educational programs could increase sales by making it clearer to lottery players what their money is going for, state schools Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman said Wednesday.

        Dr. Zelman made her recommendation to the Ohio Lottery Profits Commission, which is exploring ways to halt a three-year, $53 million decline in lottery profits.

        Ohio law already diverts all lottery profits to education. The $696 million the state Education Department re ceived last year is about 6 percent of the department's annual budget.

        Dr. Zelman's proposal would earmark any increase in profits to a specific educational program, such as teacher training or textbooks. She cited the example of the Georgia Lottery Corp., which earmarks profits from its lottery to three education programs: college grants and scholarships, pre-kindergarten programs and school capital costs.

        Georgia lottery profits grew from $362 million in 1994, the lottery's first year, to $646 million last year, spokeswoman Parquita Nassau said Wednesday.

        Dr. Zelman also thinks more should be done to educate Ohioans about the way lottery funds are used. More than two decades after the lottery was instituted in 1974, many taxpayers still don't realize the lottery doesn't completely fund education in Ohio, she said.

        State Sen. Doug White, R-Manchester, a commission member, said he's worried the earmarking proposal could have the opposite effect she seeks. Many who still misunderstand education funding might look at an earmarked program and express frustration at the small amount in question.

        But State Sen. Mark Mallory, D-Cincinnati, another commission member, said earmarking funds would let people see their lottery tickets paying for something concrete.

        Gov. Bob Taft has approved increasing spending on advertising by 41 percent to $21.3 million this year, up from $15 million.


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