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N.C. Opinions: Winston-Salem

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Don’t take ‘education’ out of lottery’s name

From an editorial Thursday in the Winston-Salem Journal:

The General Assembly has never had much of an institutional memory. Members through history may not have rushed to change the way things were done, but that was more out of political inertia than an understanding of the historical purposes behind many of our laws.

There is a move afoot to remove the word “education” from the state lottery’s title. In years past, we’ve indicated our cynicism about using the word in the title. But now, the reason to keep it in is to remind the legislature’s membership – now comprised largely of legislators in their first and second terms – of the original justification in 2005 for bringing state-run gambling into our convenience stores.

In the early 2000s, supporters struggled to find a way to pass a lottery. They hit on the idea of dedicating the state’s profits to education and stuck the word into the lottery’s formal name.

Since its first earnings in Fiscal 2007, the lottery has raised $2.58 billion for education, some of it for college financial aid, some to lower K-3class sizes.

But lottery opponents, including the Journal, suspected that the lottery would never really enhance public education funding, betting that lottery money appropriated in that direction would simply be supplanted by legislators either cutting or slowing education spending.

Those concerns were legitimate. The “education” lottery has brought money into the classroom while legislators were cutting other education funds. The lottery, in short, has made it easier for legislators to meet their other priorities, be they spending programs or tax cutting.

Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, who never liked the lottery, calls use of “education” in the lottery a “façade.” We agree. The lottery became law in North Carolina for reasons mostly financial and commercial, and education was simply political cover.

But the word is important now, if for no other reason than to remind our legislature of the original deal their predecessors made with ticket buyers, that is, that state profits would go to the schools.

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