It doesn’t happen often, but it did last Sunday. That’s when I found myself nodding in agreement over a New York Times article about what’s really happening in those states who increasingly look to lotteries to boost revenues for education. Reporters Ron Stodghill and Ron Nixon analyzed data from states with education lotteries and confirmed what many of us had long thought: lotteries really don’t boost money for education. Lottery funds, in many states, simply replace money already budgeted for education. The fact is, education lottery results are often far different from those promised in the slick advertizing campaigns waged to gain legislative and public support. Stodghill and Nixon write:
“…lotteries accounted for anywhere from 5 percent to less than 1 percent of the total revenue for K-12 education last year in the states that use this money for schools. . .In reality, most of the money raised by lotteries is used simply to sustain the games themselves, including marketing, prizes and vendor commissions, And as lotteries compete for a small number of core players and try to persuade occasional customers to play more, nearly every state has increased, or is increasing, the size of its prizes – further shrinking the percentage of each dollar going to education and other programs.”
The selling ? or overselling ? of the North Carolina Education Lottery figures prominently in the Times article, along with the recent “tweaking” towards larger payouts….In the end, it’s still just bad money ? now just less of it ? chasing a bad idea….Do we ever learn?