Yesterday the NC House unveiled its $21.1 billion budget. Included in the document is a 5 percent raise for North Carolina teachers and $1,000 raises for state employees. The House plan — unlike the Senate budget — does not ask teachers to give up tenure; nor does it call for significant reductions in the number of Teacher Assistants in the classroom.
The House will finance teacher raises largely through an expansion of the NC Education Lottery. Currently the NC Education Lottery is limited to using 1 percent of its annual revenues for advertising. The House budget will increase that amount to 2 percent. Lottery officials estimated the increase in advertising would raise an additional $106 million in sales. The House plan also redirects $19 million in lottery revenue earmarked for UNC Financial Aid and $12 million designated for digital learning and applies it toward teacher salaries. Another $56 million is expected to come from higher than expected revenue.
Depending on increased lottery revenue to fund teacher raises is a bad idea for several reasons. First, historically, lottery revenue never really been considered a stable source of revenue. As such why would we want to finance a portion of teacher salaries with lottery money? Second, the lottery is essentially a regressive tax on those who can least afford to pay it. That we designate some of the revenue from those transactions for public education, does not diminish the wrong.
Several years ago, it was difficult to find a Republican who would vote for the Lottery. Now you have a Republican-dominated chamber voting to expand it. Granted there are still individual Republicans who oppose the Lottery. Nevertheless, the speed of the change is remarkable.