WRAL Investigates

Division of NC lottery proceeds dilutes impact

Posted February 21, 2011

N.C. Education Lottery
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— The North Carolina Education Lottery has generated $1.7 billion for education in the state since the first scratch-off tickets were sold almost five years ago.

Still, with school districts statewide in financial straits and considering cutting teaching jobs or piling more students into each class to balance their budgets, many North Carolina residents see the lottery as a boondoggle.

"I don't know what they do with the money. Where's the money go?" said Warren Liles, who sells plenty of lottery tickets at his convenience store on Poole Road in Raleigh.

Part of the problem, state officials say, is that the controversial 2005 law that created the state-run games divided lottery proceeds among too many needs – teacher salaries, pre-kindergarten programs, school construction and need-based college scholarships.

"The proceeds from the lottery for education is like parsley on the potato or cranberry sauce with the turkey dinner," Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson said. "It provides additional funds, but never view the lottery as the main meal."

In the fiscal year that ended last June, for example, the lottery contributed $401 million to North Carolina's public schools. That is only about 5 percent of the $7.5 billion dollars in school spending statewide during the year, however.

"Millions will never be able to get us to the place when we need billions of dollars," Atkinson said.

Wake County received nearly $28 million in lottery funds during the 2009-10 school year, but that accounted for only 2.2 percent of the school district's $1.2 billion annual budget.

N.C. lottery ticket sales feeling economy's weight Division of NC lottery proceeds dilutes impact

"I think that's one reason people are upset because they don't see the effects of the dollars," said state Rep. Harold Brubaker, R-Randolph.

Although he voted against the lottery law, Brubaker now argues that the proceeds need to be more focused and not spread among so many pots.

"What are you going to do to fill in the balance (when lottery money dips)?" he asked. "If you're simply dedicating those funds to brick and mortar, when you have the dollars, you pay off debt (and) build new schools. When it's slow, slow up."

Atkinson agrees that amending the lottery law to dedicate money to a single purpose would produce more impact.

"If we had a focus on one area such as technology or preschool education, then I think we'd be in a better place," she said.

Georgia is often looked to as one of the most successful state lotteries in the country because it funds only the Hope Scholarship, which provides free college tuition for state high school graduates with a B average. Yet, even Georgia's lottery is now struggling to pay for that promise.

Atkinson said she believes concentrating North Carolina's lottery money for a single purpose would build accountability. Lottery dollars often only replace general fund spending for education instead of supplement it, she noted.

The percentage of the state's General Fund budget going to public schools has dropped from 39.2 to 37.7 percent since the lottery's inception, despite a steady increase in overall state spending during that time.

"It's a shell game," House Majority Leader Paul Stam said. "The day the lottery started, they began supplanting (education funds)."


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  • driverkid3 Feb 23, 2011

    Look at who controlled the state when the lottery bill passed. Lots of money for the politicians to dream about spending. One way or another, we are going to be taxed to death. I've bought 3 tickets in the years since it began. The only thing I won is the loss of $3.00. That could have been spent on food for my dog.

  • Wags Feb 22, 2011

    I have bought 6 lottery tickets in my lifetime. On one of them I won $30,000. I can't complain.

  • Z Man Feb 22, 2011

    jdupree is right. it's a shell game. 100% of the proceeds from the lottery go to education. But that only means the equivalent amount of money that was budgeted to education from other sources can now be pilfered for pet projects. The net for education is 0 though the lottery supporters can rightly claim 100% of the lottery proceeds goes towards education!

  • independentvoter3 Feb 22, 2011

    Actually I know three people that have been hit by lightening, but none that have hit the lottery for more that $200. Run that through your calculator!

    That's actually an easy one. The more people you know who have hit the lottery, the less likely you will be to hit the lottery... Run THAT through your calculator...

  • independentvoter3 Feb 22, 2011

    Seems to me as though the NC Lottery is NOT the "Education Lottery" as billed. Sounds like legal grounds to me....

  • miketroll3572 Feb 22, 2011

    They need to cut preschool education from the budget completely. I have never played the lottery and never will and people that do are fools.

  • lilluke0 Feb 22, 2011

    All I see is when the lottery started everybody came up with a lame excuse to get their hands on the lottery funds to support their pet projects!!No one with enough clout was able to get the money headed in the right direction,thus the grab money pot was formed!!

  • lilluke0 Feb 22, 2011

    Look people, this education lottery was in my mine,strickly for our children's education and saving the jobs of our teachers to teach our childrens!!
    It was put in the wrong hands, our overseers of this money just put the money pot out there for everybody to dig in! They should at least follow the money to make sure it was used for that purpose. My point here is that, this money is not for every little pet project as it seems to me. When they tell us who got what that lets us know it was a grab bag! This is very wrong and Our Gov. Beverly is not helping this program to be excluded from all of these money grabbing leaches. This is not a "free for all" opportunity, it should have been watched closely from the begining! This lottery money has shown us just how gready our law makers are when it comes to grab bag type money train!! Get a grip on these funds and put our teachers back to work please, our kids needs good teachers!

  • bossman54 Feb 22, 2011

    Too may folks here have been listening to neo-Puritans. Statistics show people with higher income play more than those in lower brackets. I've won three jackpots in my life and have laughed all the way to the back. Run that through your calculator and get back to work before I start firing people!

  • cariannestanley Feb 22, 2011

    The lottery is a waste of money - it's not helping our schools one iota......it's just a jackpot for the people who run it. That's about it. STOP WASTING MONEY ON IT!