Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Pat McCrory's call to change how state lottery money is allocated won't have a measurable impact on North Carolina schools, observers said Wednesday.
In his State of the State address on Monday, McCrory called for legislation "to reallocate a portion of money away from the bloated, and frankly annoying, advertising and the large administrative costs of the lottery commission." He said the money could be better used to upgrade classroom technology statewide.
North Carolina Education Lottery officials counter that administrative costs are already half what state law allows. Also, the lottery spent $14.7 million to advertise its games in the fiscal year that ended last June, which officials said is less per capita than comparable states.
"Our fear would be that, if we were required to reduce ads, that it would reduce sales and money for education," lottery spokesman Van Denton said.
Ads and sales generally go hand in hand, Denton said.
Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake, said he not only wants less spent on lottery ads, he wants the games portrayed in a less appealing way.
"Almost all of their advertising is false and deceptive," Stam said.
Beyond commercials, McCrory also hopes to change how lottery proceeds are spent. The $2.6 billion the lottery has raised for education since its inception is restricted to upgrading teacher pay, school construction, pre-kindergarten programs and college scholarships.
"There's a pot of money right now that can only be used on certain things. Why not let all of our districts use that money on technology and virtual learning?" the governor said during his State of the State address.
Companion bills were filed Wednesday in the House and Senate that would permit school districts to use lottery money for digital textbooks, school connectivity and other technology, as well as staff training to use the devices, until June 2016. After that, a district would need to demonstrate that the technology boosted student learning and receive State Board of Education permission to continue spending lottery money on new devices, according to House Bill 97 and Senate Bill 119.
"I'd like to give every dollar we give unrestricted, and let them make their money go as far as it will where they know it needs to go," said Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said she also wanted more funding for school technology, but she pointed out that the lottery generates only 4 percent of North Carolina's total budget for public schools.
"That amount of money would be just a drop in the bucket for the amount of money we really need," Atkinson said.