Local assemblyman wants the state lottery to increase funding for public schools

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A number of school districts, including in the Capital Region, are suffering financially. Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 20 percent cut to education threatens to make the situation even worse.

In an effort to help find a solution, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara is introducing a bill in the State Assembly that calls for an increase in state lottery funds for “Emergency COVID Relief Aid” to public schools. 

Assemblyman Santabarbara said more than 50 years ago the New York State Lottery was approved by the public as a means to help pay for schools.

“The original slogan when it was first introduced was ‘Your Chance of a Lifetime to Help Education’; that was before it changed to ‘A Dollar and a Dream’,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara.

On Friday, he told NEWS10 ABC, somehow that mission seems to have been lost along the way and that it’s time for that to change.

“Most of this money, if not almost all of it needs to go where it was intended to go, which is public education,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara.

He said lottery money only makes up about 14 percent of total state aid and only about one-third of the state’s traditional play lottery revenue is actually going towards education. 

“The lottery generates revenue; they continue to generate revenue. The funding is there. This funding is supposed to be used for education. This bill, my bill, makes sure that that funding is used for education,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara.

The new bill he’s introducing in the State Assembly is titled the “Emergency School Relief Act of 2020”. He said it would increase the amount of “education aid” from the New York State Lottery by 30 percent and immediately divert those funds to school districts as “Emergency COVID Relief Aid”.

“The additional funds would help get schools the funding they need to safely re-open,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara. “Among other funding needs, school districts are in desperate need of funding to implement effective testing for COVID-19 and meet recommended health and safety guidelines to safeguard the health and well-being of students, teachers and staff,” he said.

The assemblyman said the 2020 state budget remained flat on education, but with the Governor’s 20 percent funding cut proposal, schools stand to lose billions.

“We’ve all had to make enormous sacrifices during COVID-19, but when it comes to public education, our kids have already lost too much,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara. 

“The Governor absolutely does not have my support on the devastating cuts he’s proposing that will do nothing more that devastate public education. This is a time to look for solutions, not create more problems. It’s crucial that we all work together to support public education needs during these critical times. Students and teachers need to know that we always have their backs, even under these difficult circumstances,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara.

He said this would be a permanent change and that it should have happened a long time ago.

“There’s no better time to make this change than right now when it’s needed the most,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara.

A spokesman for the New York State Gaming Commission told NEWS10 they would not comment on proposed legislation, but they did provide us with numbers from the 2019-2020 fiscal year. The state lottery provided $3.38 billion to support education statewide. Last year, schools in Albany County alone received $52.3 million, Schenectady County $37.8 million, and Columbia County $6.6 million, to name a few. The contribution to each district depends on a number of factors, including size and income level.

“What the bill would do is essentially double the amount of money, the amount of revenue, that comes from state lottery. Funds could be immediately diverted to schools. It could make a tremendous impact during their desperate time of need,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara.

He said he expects support on both sides of the aisle on this one.

“This is a number one priority. It should be the number one priority for everyone at the state Capitol, NYS Department of Health, and certainly the Governor’s office,” said Assemblyman Santabarbara.

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