AS THE CLOCK ticks down to September with a state budget crisis showing no signs of resolution, we can imagine the panic taking hold in school districts around the state - and Philadelphia's is no exception. Of course, late-August panic is nothing new to the School District of Philadelphia. For years, the gap between unresolved budgets and opening day of school has created an atmosphere of unrelenting crisis that distracts from the priority of how to best educate our children.

This year's crisis is a battle between Gov. Wolf and a Republican-dominated state Legislature, who remain far apart on big issues such as pension reform, education funding and shale tax. A few weeks ago, we urged patience for the budget process, since these battles represent a shift from the status quo. But time is now wasting.

And until this gets resolved, school districts have to come up with alternate plans to cover money that won't be coming from the state. In Bethlehem, for example, the school board voted to cut payments to charter schools by 30 percent. Philadelphia is exploring options, including borrowing to help its cash flow. But borrowing costs money.

Meanwhile, amid this crisis is a parallel universe, where money is pouring in and the state's coffers are being enriched. This universe is called "the gaming industry."

Every month, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board releases reports on the performance of the state's casinos, which include slots and table games. Yesterday, the board reported that table games revenue has increased by more than 13 percent in July alone. Gross revenue from table games was about $70 million, representing $10 million in tax revenue.

$10 million. For one month.

We are always struck when we read these reports of how much cash people are dropping in casinos. Every year, people put $29 billion into the state's slots machines; last year, state gamblers dropped $700 million on table games.

Since slots were legalized in 2004, they've generated $17 billion in gross terminal revenue, which gets divvied among a few pies, including a 34 percent state tax that goes to property tax relief ($6 billion) and the horse race development fund ($2 billion to date). Increasing that fund was the reason that gaming was legalized. Isn't it time to rethink $2 billion going to horses?

Table games were authorized a mere five years ago, and have so far brought in $450 million in taxes. About $96 million a year goes into the state's general fund.

We can't help scratching our head over this and asking, "What the hell has the state done with this money?" It's clearly been absorbed into the state's budget and covers other needs. Since Wolf wants to earmark $400 million in additional school spending, why can't the current recipients of this tax - whoever they are - have a turn at racing around in a panic and coming up with Plan B's for covering their costs, and direct this money to education?

Instead of dragging out the calculator and sweating over how to keep the doors open each August, school districts such as ours could spend their time and energy planning how to actually improve education and ensure students' success.

That's the parallel universe we should be living in.