07/30/08 — Recession-proof? Whatever happened to the good old lottery bailout?

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Recession-proof? Whatever happened to the good old lottery bailout?

There has been some publicity, but not much, over the money that has been raised by the North Carolina Lottery to help fund the state's schools.

A more accurate description is that the much-touted lottery is a flash that has now become a fizzle.

Forget that the idea of millions being available for education has been somewhat true. There just has not been enough new money to be the salvation for the state's schools that the lottery was prophesied to be.

That means North Carolina taxpayers are going to have to do a bit more than buy lottery tickets if they are going to have solid gold schools and more education success stories.

Wayne County is getting some money -- and that is taking a bit of a bite out of the ever-increasing costs of running a school district -- but it has not really been enough to relieve enough burden to actually add to the offerings here. So, while there has been a benefit, it is not the impact some would like to see.

And have you also noticed that there is not the excitement about the lottery that there used to be? Some of the commercials have become downright silly. More people are playing blackjack in the mountain casinos it seems than are heading to their local lottery retailer to pick up a ticket.

Could it be an aversion to gambling? Probably not. Could it just be people are too lazy to walk in to pick up a ticket? Possibly.

Or could it also be that the very people who buy the tickets are the ones who can least afford to do so -- and they are buying less now that their day-to-day living costs are going up? Now that could be an explanation.

The lottery was never going to be the magic bullet that fixed all that ails the North Carolina schools -- and anyone who thought so must not have too steady a grip on reality.

But if it is going to continue and to have a future impact, someone, somewhere is going to have to come up with some excitement -- and to figure out a way to get more North Carolinians buying tickets -- at least those who can afford to do so.

In the meantime, local school districts like Wayne County and others that are trying to battle budget deficits and increased demands from state and federal officials, should be able to use those lottery funds as a way to enhance education, not as a buffer for increasing costs and less than enthusiastic funding partners.

How nice would it be to be able to operate the schools efficiently with a set budget and then to be able to add something new that we might not otherwise be able to afford.

That would be like winning the lottery.

Published in Editorials on July 30, 2008 11:41 AM