While the lottery funds universal preschool for Georgia’s four-year-old children, thousands of families pay out-of-pocket to enroll their younger kids in local daycares – often at a steep price.

Nearly $24 billion in proceeds from lottery ticket sales has gone to fund preschools and the HOPE and Zell Miller college scholarships since the Georgia Lottery’s creation in 1992. Last fiscal year saw the most lottery dollars sent to the state treasury so far at more than $1.5 billion, including roughly $382 million to run preschools.

Daycares that serve children from infancy to three-years-old do not receive any lottery funding under state law, forcing local centers to lean on families to pay for tuition or qualify for low-income subsidies. Tuition-funded programs without lottery typically pay their teachers far less than those at lottery-backed preschools, according to state Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) data.

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