NC Education Lottery not for learning

Funds from the lottery do not clearly benefit education, teachers, students; residents are left questioning.

Story by Ashleigh Fields, Online Editor-In-Chief

For years, people have entered the North Carolina lottery not only to win but also to donate money towards a good cause: education.

In most other states, there’s a clear idea of where the funds are going. For example, in the state of Georgia, the education lottery funds the Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally (HOPE) Scholarship and Zell Miller Scholarship, which is open to all graduating seniors with a certain GPA. This scholarship helps fund students seeking a bachelor’s diploma or technical certification/diploma.

However, in N.C., people are unsure of exactly where their money is going.

“I don’t think the money is being used for education. If as much money that’s being put in to the lottery was used for education, our schools would be in better shape, ” said culinary teacher Dale Richardson.

N.C.’s lottery is newer in comparison to other programs around the country. The lottery was enacted in 2005 when the N.C. State Lottery Act was signed. It has earned about $5.5 billion to date since it was instated. For three years, the lottery system was free of complaint until Governor Beth Perdue took office in 2009.

In February 2009 Governor Perdue withheld close to $88 million of the earnings to fill holes in the N.C. budget. She chose to withhold $38 million that was reserved for a school construction budget, as well as empty $50 million in the lottery reserve. This was in direct conflict with the mandate of the N.C. Education Lottery law. This controversial move by the Governor prompted N.C. lawmakers to propose a name change which would remove “Education” from its name to deter citizens from questioning the true motive of the lottery. However this law did not pass and money from the lottery fund is still going towards education.

“Folks that can’t afford to play the lottery pour money into it with hopes of winning and government officials are responsible for monitoring where the money goes,” said East Meck Sergeant Ron Waller.

Currently, there is a nine member Lottery commission charged with overseeing the education lottery. It is said that by law the proceeds of the N.C. Education Lottery go to education expenses, such as construction and scholarships. Of the money earned, only 28 percent goes towards education initiatives. Other funds are distributed as follows, prizes: 61 percent, retailer commissions and incentives: 7 percent, and administrative expenses: 4 percent.

“Statements provided by the N.C. lottery fund often give comments like these without a real breakdown of what program all of this money is being funneled through,” said senior Arielle Ridings.

As for now there are only four clear areas that the state lottery funds. They are Fines and Forfeitures, Sales Tax, Lottery Receipts, and the General Fund.

The General Fund can be used to account for ineffective funds that are supposed to be going toward public schools. Much of the money going to education from the N.C. Education Lottery goes through the General Fund to fund charter schools. Charter schools can receive government funding but operate independently from public schools systems which allows them to acquire money from the lottery. In the Charlotte area, charter schools include the Charlotte Lab School, Socrates Academy, and Queens Grant Community school.

Each of these charter schools receives equal amounts of the funds dedicated for education except for the portion of lottery funding dedicated to the Public School Building Capital Fund.

“This is sad, we need better funding for our schools public schools. If we are pouring into the lottery, it isn’t unreasonable for us to expect results,” said senior Micah Winchester.