Friday, January 7, 2011

What about the lottery money?

As school budget talks crank up, so does a chorus of questions about where the money from the N.C. Education Lottery goes.

N.C. Department of Public Instruction has posted a brief explainer here.

For county-by-county breakdowns, go to the Lottery Commission's site (click Beneficiary Brochures for details).
-- ADH


Anonymous said...

I'm disappointed that you have moved on from the per pupil spending blog. We don't yet have an answer for exactly what is the activity fund and where it comes from. Inquiring minds want to know.

therestofthestory said...

Superb, a good link to hold on in my CMS favorites folder!

HOWEVER, I would like to better understand the distribution formula for the single pot of money. At one time, Mecklenburg County was discounted because the state believed it had more resources to tax and raise more money for schools locally than other counties like Onslow, etc.

therestofthestory said...

From CMS's website:

School Activity Fund: The School Activity Fund includes revenues and expenditures for the activities of the individual schools. The primary revenue sources include funds held on the behalf of various clubs and organizations, receipts from athletic events, and proceeds from various fund raising activities. The primary expenditures are for athletic teams, clubs programs, activity buses, and instructional needs.

John said...

North Carolina now learns what EVERY single state with an "education lottery" has already learned. The promises of better education with less taxes are lies!

While they call it an education lottery, they almost always word the law in a way that either allows the money to be used for other purposes or allows them to use it to replace existing education funding.

Education is supposed to be funded by property taxes, traffic tickets (remember the red light cameras had to be removed because they diverted money from schools... even though they saved lives!) and now, also the lottery... yet where is that money today? Have property taxes gone down? Are less people getting tickets? Lottery money was supposed to be a "bonus" NOT a replacement for existing funding! It's a lie... it's always been a lie, and it will always BE a lie! You've been had... and those of us who have seen it before tried to tell you but you wouldn't listen.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Restofthestory (you're doing a great job!). So according to this description of the activity fund wouldn't PTA fund raising be included in that? On the previous blog it was stated that PTA funds were not included, but I don't see how that can be, since in elementary schools there aren't many clubs raising money, nor are there athletic receipts.

John said...

It's no coincedence that the corruption cases in the NC state government started to come to light right after the backroom deal that gave us the lottery. Gambling is a dirty, corrupt business and legalizing it serves only to corrupt the government officials who oversee and profit from it. Bear that in mind when discussing the legalization of other corrupt behaviours like drugs... nothing good can come of it and too much bad. Where there is big money to be made, there will always be scoundrels to siphon it into their own pockets... and what better cover than to claim to be funding schools or healthcare or any other "worthy goal"? If the "worth cause" get's 10 cents on the dollar, consider yourself lucky!

Pamela Grundy said...

PTA money isn't included. It's privately raised and not reported to CMS. The activity fund also includes money from things like school picture sales (schools actually get some money from this), boxtop collecting and other donations when they come directly to the school rather than going through the PTA.

For what it's worth, although PTA monies don't seem large in the big picture, they can have a disproportionate educational impact because they can be targeted directly at enrichment endeavors such as school gardens, Science Olympiad, chess clubs, specialized library books and other things that regular school funds aren't available for.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the input, Pamela, but I'm still confused about this. According to the per pupil spread sheet Selwyn had $102,000 in its activity fun; Providence Springs $78,000; Olde Providence $43,000, etc. I know that their PTAs are great fund raisers, but are you saying these reported funds are not from the PTA? Where then would all that money come from?

Also Shamrock Gardens reports no activity funds but you have Science Olympiad, a school garden, chess club, etc.--where does the money for that come from? Is the money spent on these things at your school part of the per pupil money from CMS? Or is it from the PTA or another source that doesn't go directly to the school? Does Shamrock actually get more money than the reported $8684 per pupil?

Ann Doss Helms said...

As noted on the previous comment strand, Eric is the man on per-pupil spending, so I'm leaving it to him to get details on the activity fund. He's about to learn how intense the inquiring minds on the schools blog are!

Anonymous said...

Poked around a little on this student activity fund issue. I do think there is confusion on what should be reported on this. If you look at activity fund numbers for each school and then compare with PTA budgets some schools (like Selwyn and Providence Spring) seem to be reporting big funds raised by PTAs while other schools are not, although they also are raising large sums of money (Eastover, Davidson, Sharon, Elizabeth Lane for example). Also although Shamrock Gardens reports no student activity fund, on their PTA webpage there are two separate links which describe grants and support that their PTA is receiving to help with the very items Pamela has mentioned ( and So they obviously are receiving more monies than we see on the per pupil spending spreadsheet (not begrudging this, just noting that they do have resources outside of CMS monies as do other schools).

Pamela Grundy said...

As I noted, the great thing about PTA money is that it can be used to provide the enrichment extras that aren't included in the regular curriculum. As a result, its marginal value is especially high. That's what we do with our PTA money (and if anyone would like to follow the above link and became a Friend of the Shamrock PTA, we can promise you that your money would be put to good use!)We spent $7,500 last year, or about $22/student. We're aiming for more this year.

One point all of this makes is that while the per pupil spending numbers have some value, there are a lot of other factors involved. So to know what's really going on at different schools (for example, while Allenbrook's numbers are unusually low for a high-poverty school, or Providence Springs' numbers are unusually high for a low-poverty school) requires more research.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your point that it is difficult to really know what's going on at individual schools or with so many CMS programs in general. I do have to ask though--Providence Springs numbers are high for a low poverty school? When you take out the school activity fund (in which I think they mistakenly--by your definition--included their PTA funds)they receive less than $5000 per child while getting the best bang for the buck in the system.

Pamela Grundy said...

The question would be why they're getting $500 more per student than Polo Ridge, Elizabeth Lane or Elon Park. Or why Davidson Elementary is getting closer to $1,000 more per student than those schools.

This is also why it's hard to talk about "bang for the buck." If you factor in what Providence Springs parents spend privately on their kids' education and enrichment, during the summer as well as the school year, it's pretty clear that more than CMS bucks are involved.

Anonymous said...

You're right. Same thing could be asked about Shamrock Gardens I suppose--why does Billingsville get $1500 less than Shamrock, or Berryhill or Hidden Valley get more than $2000 less? Many others could be included in this list.

Pamela Grundy said...

It is an interesting question. We're bumped up some because we're a small school, and we're also a pilot school for the TIFF-LEAP pay for performance program, which goes into our spending. But there's no question that we've been very fortunate, which has made a real difference for our kids.

Anonymous said...

Heads up to anyone who hasn't gone back to read the cost per pupil blog today. Questions were asked about why the cost per pupil article wasn't published in today's paper. Ann and Eric say they had expected it to be published (although the blog certainly left the topic behind well before Saturday morning) Seems that it has now been put off until Monday, front page of the local (can't help but believe that if the results had been the opposite--low poverty getting the most money--that it would be all over the front page.

Conscience said...

So when I buy a lottery ticket, it goes towards educating someone in state government to find better ways to make it disappear? Might as well call it the Good Buy Money lottery.

Anonymous said...

I am pretty sure the Activity Fund is for Field Trips. Especially the CMS Wide Fifth Grade trip to the YMCA Camp Thunderbird. The Activity Fund also probably covers activities at the school, like when there is a Meeting/Event and a custodian has to be there, etc. I know there are many PTA supported events but the schools probably provide some support when the Teachers also do things like EOG Survivior in third grade. I'm sure there is a bit of Activity Fund - school support for that.

Anonymous said...

Here's how to equalize per pupil spending at all schools.

Most of the money comes from staff salaries so make sure you have an equal mix of teachers in terms of:
years experience,
advanced degrees
national board certification.

Also,make sure all principals and other staff are paid the same amount of money.

Next differential is the federal monies so make sure you have an equal number of the following categories of students in each school:
Exceptional Children (EC)
English as Second Language ESL)
McKinney-Vento (Homeless)
Free and Reduced Lunch (FRL)

Make sure no school is Title I then the feds won't pay for extra staffing.

Until CMS dis-aggregates the data in all of the terms above, it's only purpose is to foment discord among sections of the population in order to achieve Gorman's hidden agenda and destroy this school system.

That's the way it has always been in this country, make middle class and poor whites think that minorities are taking something away from them so their latent racist attitudes can burst forth.

So it leaves the all little guys (middle and lower class whites, blacks and Hispanics)fighting over a little sliver of the pie while 99% of that pie is in the pockets of a very few. They sit in their ivory towers laughing at us and marveling how this works every time.

We all need to band together and ask for a real accounting of all funds in this school system. We used to get a budget, before Gorman, that told us where every penny came from and where it went. Demand it now Charlotte and uncover the lies!

Anonymous said...

We absolutely have to pour more resources into the traditionally black schools. White folks don't need any help; those two parent households produce leaders, and children that are naturally disposed towards learning. Black households, if you can call them that, are more stilted towards poverty. We must pour more and more of our hard earned resources towards saving this society. These folks typically don't work so it is up to us that do to support them, and their children. They were scammed into property that they couldn't afford, so the foreclosures are also related to this. This is why again, we must pour more hard earned tax dollars towards helping these folks. They are the true victems of those of us who work and support society.

Anonymous said...

A little historical note about this data.

Four years ago when I asked CMS for this data, no one ever had. They helped me with the basic concept of a school budget versus the expenses. That’s critical. I found many of the things you all are finding now. I ran some comparison and found a lot of surprises.

Back then, blogs on this stuff didn’t exist. So I just asked for a meeting at CMS so I could get it straight. Pete Gorman, Shelia Shirley and Dennis Covington met with me for more than an hour. Since then they’ve sent the information every year.

Perhaps the best thing would be for the blog members to request a similar meeting. There would be an additional benefit. You’d get to meet the people who really know about what’s happening during this budget crisis.

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...

This begs the question--if four years ago you were able to get this information by asking, why didn't anyone in the media ever ask? Why were so many content to operate on the assumption that we were scrimping on the high poverty schools?

Pamela Grundy said...

This information has been available for a while, and Ann has written more than one article on it, including an article this time last year that was almost identical to the one that was just published. It's not the Observer's fault that people don't pay attention.

Anonymous said...


Here's how I got the information the first time.

In Nov. 2007 just before the School Bonds based but just after the markets were giving the signals that it was headed south, I began to think about how in a couple of years parents were going to be screaming about other schools getting more than their schools.

So, I made the call to CMS. I did a lot of research that showed that there WASN'T a predictable correlation. FRL schools weren't always getting the most money.

I showed this data to a lot of people. There was even some surprise at CMS. What the data really confirmed was that some FRL schools weren't SPENDING their allotted funds because the principals weren't doing a good job of hiring the most experienced teachers. Pete Gorman gave me a good example of that, which he was in the process of "fixing."

Here's why the numbers didn't make it to the media. The parents never complained. They never understood the difference between the rough budget the principals made in the summer and how much different were the expense records the following September.

When all of you look at these records you need to think about what CMS has recently done to fix the problem:-- that would be moving more authority down to the Principals. This in combination with top management support looks to be to be a winner.

Be sure to visit

Bolyn McClung

Anonymous said...


Huge differences between expenses at one school versus another another are explained by only a few reasons.

1. There is a Federal Grant program.

2. Some sort of special project is going-on.

3. The number of teachers.

Everyone understands #1 and #2. Shamrock Gardens and Allenbrook are the best(worst) examples. Each had the same FRL and same size but Shamrock made Allenbrook look like a slum because of the experimentation. CMS should never participated to the extent it did in programs that were too expensive to replicate throughout the system.

Number 3 is the killer. CMS had a number of high FRL schools that were budgeted more than some low FRLs, like Prov. Springs ES. But when the high FRLs weren't able to SPEND all the teacher money then suddenly all the assumed ratios didn't come-out as predicted.

A change of just two teachers can cause a swing of $75M to $100M. That would be two $35M or two $50M teachers.

The key to all of this is placing better qualified principals in the schools. Just as the CMS Taskforce of 2005 asked for a CEO-like superintendent, the move should be to ask for CEO-like principals.

Be sure to visit

Bolyn McClung

therestofthestory said...

I first came across this information for the 2006-2007 school year when the a group here in town published it trying to embarrass the community into more tax money. It failed however because they were not vey bright interpreting the data.

Actually as I dug furhter, I found this more a case of CMS officals assisting this group to undermine the court decision that lifted the busing order on CMS.

Clay Boggess said...

It’s obvious that the lottery hasn’t work like people hoped it would. What has worked over time is individual groups rolling up their sleeves and working to meet their own specific needs. There are no easy roads. We have to somehow be willing to solve our own problems.