Local News

Lure of the Lottery: Supporters Say Schools Will Win Big

Posted June 18, 2001

— North Carolina educators are among the biggest supporters of the lure of the lottery.

Many North Carolina teachers hope crowded schools will be the winners with a lottery.

"It would provide the money in order to hire additional teachers to reduce the sizes of the classes. Children do better when class sizes are lower, we know that from all the research you can read. And the second thing we want it for is for early childhood education program," says Joyce Elliot, of the

North Carolina Association of Educators

(NCAE).

The Association of County Commissioners, the Association of School Boards and the Association of Convenience Store Operators agree with the NCAE that public schools in the state need more money and a lottery is the best solution.

"Some of those people who say that we're gambling with our children's future are also the people who don't think twice about having church bingo or also having a local raffle for their private school. So I think there's a little bit of hypocracy going on here," says Jay Reiff of the N.C. Lottery for Education Coalition.

Reiff says "For people who are truly, morally opposed to the lottery, I have a simple solution. just don't buy them. "

Sixty percent of North Carolina's voters support a lottery for education, 33 percent oppose a lottery, and 7 percent are undecided. Grass roots organizer Gary Minter plans to change that.

"Basically, I'm trying to hand out petitions to get the right to vote for a referendum on the state lottery in North Carolina and I'll give [them] to the governor or General Assembly when we get enough," says Minter, who has already collected thousands of signatures.

"I think the most important part is the freedom of choice," he says. "It's better than a tax. Taxes are mandatory...With a lottery it's totally your decision. If you have a few extra dollars and you wanna go ahead and make a donation to the schools, that's your choice. You might win something, I don't know! I look at it as a donation."

"If we don't fund it by a lottery, I would like to ask those people in opposition, how would you fund public education so we can be number one in the nation by 2010?" asks Elliot.

"If you drive up to the state line between Virginia and North Carolina and look at the license plates of ours up there, you know that somebody's getting North Carolina's business and it ain't North Carolina," says Reiff.

Taking a look at the numbers, $100 million of Virgina Lottery sales come from North Carolina players. In Georgia, $20 to $30 million of its sales come from the Tar Heel state.

And to the criticism that a lottery will prey on the poor?

"Well actually, the studies are, at best, mixed on that," says Reiff. "There is a recent study out of the University of Texas that studied the Texas lottery and what it shows is that lottery players are evenly distributed across race, income and gender.

"If lotteries are really that bad, why aren't states getting rid of them? The fact of the matter is, every state out there is keeping them," says Reiff.

"The debate over whether people should or should not play the lottery is essentially over," he says. "They are playing it and we just can't stick our head in the sand and say it's not happening, because it is."

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