No advertisement at all would be better than the TV spot the Lottery Department recently began broadcasting to explain its contribution to schools, Education Commissioner Betty Castor said Monday. "To have this ad fostering the impression that somehow the lottery is doing more than it is _ the reason I called everyone in here is I don't think we can permit that to go on," Castor told lobbyists for Florida's teachers, administrators and school boards.
Castor invited the lobbyists to add their names to letters she planned to send to Bob Morrison, chairman of the Lottery Commission, and to the Legislature requesting that the commercial be pulled immediately.
Morrison, a Tampa lawyer, said that he would listen but that he saw nothing wrong with the ad and would not recommend pulling it until he heard some rationale for doing so.
Castor also said she will ask the Legislature to amend a law requiring the Lottery Department to spend some of its advertising budget to explain its contribution to education. The law was passed last year.
"The intent was clearly to indicate that the lottery accounts for a relatively small amount of the total education budget," Castor said in the letter to lawmakers.
The commercial features Lottery Secretary Rebecca Paul walking down a school hall and into a classroom, explaining that the lottery has donated more than $1-billion to education and that schools still need local support.
Paul says "while a billion dollars is more than expected, it's only part of what our schools need. The rest is up to you."
That message is not strong enough, Castor and the education lobbyists maintain.
"It wouldn't be so bad if these dollars really were on top of everything else," Castor said. But, she said, the share of general revenue money spent on education has dropped steadily every year from 61.19 percent in fiscal year 1986-87 to 57.74 percent last year.
This year, lottery dollars account for just over 9 percent of the operating budget of Florida public schools and 9.5 percent of the total state public education system, including colleges and universities.
Ed George, lottery spokesman, released a statement that defended the ad as being accurate and written to "highlight the fact that lottery funds are only a part of what our schools need."
George said the Lottery Department was waiting to receive a letter from the education groups and would consider their concerns seriously.