04/11/06 — Waiting for plan: There’s a lottery, but where are details on the next step

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Waiting for plan: There’s a lottery, but where are details on the next step

The North Carolina Education Lottery has been in full gear in this state for just a little more than a couple of weeks and already the state is bringing in a significant amount of new revenue.

Millions of tickets have been bought since the March debut, with hundreds of North Carolina residents claiming prizes in the new scratch-off games.

And it doesn’t look like the pace is going to slow down anytime soon.

So, it would be reasonable to suggest that the North Carolina Education Lottery is an unqualified success, and reasonable to believe that the introduction of new games will be equally as successful.

Many in the state are already chomping at the bit for the debut of the Powerball sometime in the near future. With the popularity of the scratch-offs, there is no telling what kind excitement pots in the $100 million range will bring.

But while state leaders are patting themselves on the backs for being smart enough to come up with the idea on how to secure more funding for the schools, they should be thinking seriously about another issue.

What is going to happen to all the money that is being raised and how will it be divided.

Few school districts in this state are not already counting the money they will receive as a result of the lottery sales. They might say they are not counting their chickens before they are hatched, but they are. It would be too tempting for a superintendent and a school board not to think about what they would do with millions of dollars added to their budget. And too easy also to plan 2007 budgets based on those lottery hopes.

So, before the first disbursement, and well before the excitement gets too out of control, state leaders should be sitting down to plan where the money will go and setting guidelines for how it will be spent, and then communicating those plans to the state’s schools.

Although there have been discussions already, and a parameter has been outlined, there is still work to be done to set the rules in stone, and that is absolutely necessary if the lottery is going to continue to be good news for North Carolina’s schools.

Whether you were for or against the lottery, it is here. Now that it is a reality, the way to make sure it is handled properly is to demand a definitive plan from state leaders. Now is the time to ask for those standards.

Published in Editorials on April 11, 2006 11:03 AM