09/06/05 — Lottery, take 2: Questions abound, but now it is time to make it work

View Archive

Lottery, take 2: Questions abound, but now it is time to make it work

Forget for the moment whether you are for or against using a lottery to fund this state’s schools.

There is something inherently wrong about the way North Carolina got its lottery.

Anyone who doesn’t think that there was more than a little manipulation of votes to get this bill passed is not quite paying attention.

The people in the districts of the two Republican senators who missed the vote — and therefore made it possible for Sen. Marc Basnight to push through the measure and Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue to vote it in — have every right to be a little annoyed.

Whether they were for or against the lottery, those senators should have been there to cast their votes or arrangements should have been made to allow them to vote. To do otherwise suggests that the bill was not really the will of the majority but an accident of circumstance.

North Carolina residents deserve better than to get a lottery by default. A healthy debate and courageous vote one way or the other would have been much better than the way this issue played out.

No matter whether they agree or disagree with the lottery vote, at least Wayne County residents can say their legislators stood up to be counted when the time came.

The debate over the lottery is not really over, even though the measure has turned into a law, which has now been signed by Gov. Mike Easley. There will be plenty of people who will be watching to see what comes next.

The stated reason for the lottery is support for the schools. And, if done properly, perhaps it will be a boon for some districts that are struggling. Take a look at what other states with lotteries have done. They are sending children to college and building new schools.

There are some in North Carolina who question where the money will go here. They do not want to see district officials padding their salaries or using the money for anything other than improving the educational futures of this state’s children. That control will ultimately be up to us. The voters of North Carolina need to keep a close eye on who gets the money, and what it is used for.

And then there is the argument about the poor people who play the lottery despite the ridiculous odds. These opponents say the very people who should be benefitting from the lottery funds will be the ones paying the bills. The real question is are they already paying the bills for schools in other states? There is plenty of money being spent across state lines right now on the lottery — and funding other states’ students’ education. The solution to making sure people are smart with their money is to make sure they have the skills to do so. No state can stop poor people from wasting money if that is what they choose to do. And we should not be in that business anyway.

There is also something to be said for not funding our children’s education based on gambling. But there are other lessons to be taught, too, and better ways to teach them, like the value of education and deciding for yourself what values you want to have and how you will live the life you have chosen. Parents should teach their children to make a decision about the lottery based on their own beliefs and then to act accordingly.

The lottery might not be the perfect solution, but for now, it is a reality. Rather than continue to rail against a fait accompli, it is time to make sure it is done properly. Keeping an eye on Raleigh is the way to make sure this state’s lottery is managed properly and does the job it is supposed to.

And, unfortunately, that is going to be as much our responsibility as that of the men and women we elected to office.

Published in Editorials on September 6, 2005 10:54 AM