OXON HILL, Md. — QUESTION:
What happened to the casino money that was supposed to add millions to Maryland schools? Did classrooms get the big boost they were promised?
Because of the way the law was written, schools were not funded beyond what the state mandated funding formula had established. Educational institutions did not see a significant boost from casinos.
Delegate Maggie McIntosh
Former Senator Joan Carter Conway
Sean Johnson- Government Relations Director, Maryland State Education Association
Adam Mendelson- Assistant Executive Director, Maryland State Education Association
Maryland Lottery and Gaming- Revenue Reports
Maryland Department of Legislative Services
There’s a car on the road at 5:45 a.m. traveling north on 210, Miatta Brooks-Carter is headed to a teach a class where 50% of her students won’t understand the homework assigned.
Ninety percent of the students at Glassmanor Elementary School in Oxon Hill, Maryland, receive free and reduced meals; 75% of the students are English learners.
From the outside, this brown brick facade K-5 looks like any other, but it is one of the neediest schools in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
“If they come in and they need coats, we’re gonna get them coats, if they don’t have supplies, we’re gonna get them supplies,” Brooks-Carter said. “They really don’t come needing a lot, because they know they’re going to get it.
In Maryland two in five educators work second jobs, the Maryland State Education Association found in a poll; approximately 91% paid for schools supplies.
“When I do my taxes, the tax guy is always saying ‘Well how much did you spend this year?’ Brooks-Carter said. “It can be $300, it can be $500, just buying supplies for the kids.”
Perhaps her situation would be different, had the state delivered on a promise made over a decade ago.
A viewer reached out to the Verify team to find out what happened to the big windfall schools were supposed to get from casinos. Did schools get a big boost from slots revenue?
Our Verify researchers followed the money.
In 2008, when casinos and slot machines were legalized, and again in 2012 with table games, tax money was supposed to be collected and go straight into the Education Trust Fund.
That fund was intended to help enhance school programming and facilities. However, that didn’t happen the way voters thought it would, because of the way the law was written.
On the 2007 ballot, Question 2, the referendum that would go on to legalize casinos in Maryland read:
"This constitutional amendment authorizes the State of Maryland to issue up to five video lottery operation licenses for the primary purpose of raising revenue for (1) education for the children of the State in public schools (prekindergarten through grade 12); (2) public school construction and public school capital improvements; and (3) construction of capital projects at community colleges and public senior higher education institutions.
The key words are "raising revenue." These words were very broad, and no new money went to education. The bottom line is, schools got what they were always getting, but now, it was coming from both the state and casinos.
Let's say the state used to give $3 billion to schools in 2007.
With the new law, in 2008, now the state could pony up $2 billion and the casinos could give the other $1 billion -- allowing the state to spend money elsewhere.
"It did go to education, so that was not a myth, it went to education, but it did not go to education on top of the formula," former Baltimore City Senator Joan Carter Conway explained.
But that's not what Maryland voters thought would happen.
“Can Maryland afford not to pass slots this November? It pumps millions into schools and colleges every year," an ad from 2007 claimed.
“It will mean hundreds of millions for our schools, as governor I can promise you that money will go to education," Former Gov. O'Malley said in another.
"Voters would take away that there was a shell game being played," Sean Johnson, Government Relations Director at Maryland State Education Association said. "The governors submitted a budget that moved the needle slightly up on education funding, but they relied on the casino money so they could appropriate less state revenue towards education and into the general fund instead."
Every month, about 30% of casino revenue goes towards the Education Trust Fund.
Since 2008, casinos have given over $3 billion to the fund, according to revenue reports from Maryland Lottery and Gaming.
Had the intent of the 2008 legislation been followed, another 1.9 billion of state dollars would have gone towards education funding, according to data from the Maryland Department of Legislative Services. Instead that money was available in the state's general fund.
Former Gov. O'Malley and current Gov. Hogan used that $1.9 billion dollars for other things in the state budget.
So instead of going towards Maryland classrooms, it went to hospitals, roads and a variety of state needs.
Gov. Hogan's office declined an on-camera interview with the Verify team, and instead sent this statement by email:
“Since Gov. Hogan has taken office, he has invested a record $25 billion in K-12 education, more than what the legislative formulas require; this includes more than $1.8 billion in funding from the Education Trust Fund,” Shareese DeLeaver-Churchill, a spokesperson for Hogan's team said.
Gov. Hogan supported fixing the law with a constitutional amendment, after a bill sponsored by Delegate Maggie McIntosh and former Senator Joan Carter Conway was approved by the legislature.
A sweeping 89% of voters passed Question 1 on the 2018 ballot; it's a constitutional amendment, which meant that no one, not even the governor, could reallocate money designed for education.
So we can Verify, over the last 10 years, schools did not see a big boost from Maryland casinos, but soon they will.
It's a phase in process starting in FY2020 for 4 years. In July 2019, schools will get an extra $125,000 in state funds; July 2020, an extra $250,000; July 2021, $375,000; July 2022, $500,000.
This means schools like Glassmanor Elementary will finally cash in.
"When we get home, we still have papers to grade, we still have to go home and buy books, we still have to think about our kids, Brooks-Carter said. "But that's okay... I have to make sure that they're ready for the future."