You have probably heard the claims that major lotteries in the United States have a positive impact on the education system. According to the experts, the sums that thanks to the lotteries are used to fund education are enormous. Is it true that the education system in the United States would be worse-off without lottery money? It’s not really that obvious.
In the United States there is no national lottery. Instead, the lotteries in each state are operated separately. Only several states do not have lotteries. The lawmakers in Utah and Alabama have cited religion as the primary reason for not creating a state lottery. Nevada, with its robust gambling industry, did not create a state lottery as a result of lobbyists who have claimed that state lottery would have a negative effect on the private sector. There are no state lotteries in Hawaii and Alaska, as there is no risk of people spending money on lottery in adjacent states. Although several states still are reluctant to pass laws that would allow for the creation of state lotteries, those that did, have witnessed a considerable increase of revenue. Okay, but how much of this money went to fund the education system? As it turns out, a lot. In the case of North Carolina, both the sales and the amount of money spent on education has been increasing each year. In 2007, $314 millions from sales went to fund the education, whereas in 2016 it was $634. The money was used to support the personnel, for school construction, and college scholarships.
If you check the numbers for other states, you will see a similar thing happening. Although many people don’t think that a state-run lottery is extremely essential, the fact that it helps fund education, and other public expenses affects the public discourse considerably.
Okay, but does that mean that our current education system would be in shambles if it weren’t for the state lotteries? Not necessarily. Although a lot of money from state lotteries is, spent on education, the states themselves decrease the education funding. Instead of improving the state of our education system, the funds that come from state lotteries are now used to help pay for things that previously were paid using state budgets. As a result, although it is factually true that state lotteries help fund the education system in the United States, our schools wouldn’t be in a worse state without them. Sure, a source of funding would be different, and the states would also have less money at their disposal.
According to the initial draft of the bill about state lottery in North Carolina, the funds that would come from state lotteries, like the ones that can be found at Lottery Critic, shouldn’t replace the funding that already exists, but instead, should be only supplementary. This fragment was soon removed.
If you compare the raw data, things are pretty unclear. The amount of money spent per student increased each year, with the exception of 2008-2009 and 2012-2013. It must be noted that the recession did certainly have a huge impact when it comes to public spending. Still, the revenue from state lotteries steadily increased, which means that theoretically, if the funding stayed at the same level, the increase should be constant. It wasn’t, which begs the question – if it was not for the recession, would we observe a similar development?
Unfortunately, it is impossible to tell with 100% certainty, but taking into account the eagerness of the states legislatures to eliminate restrictions, and cuts in education spendings, it seems that the funds from state lotteries are now treated as a foundation, and not something extra. Given the current state of public education in the United States – the fact that teachers are underpaid and a lot of schools are being closed, the state legislatures should reevaluate the system that is currently in place. There are many urgent issues that need to be addressed, but we need a healthy education system if we want to remain competitive with other countries in the near future. When it comes to primary education, the average size of the class has stayed in recent years at around 20 students (increasing from 2011 to 2012) which isn’t terrible, but the smaller the size, the more attention is given to each student. Sure, you could argue that although everyone would want to increase the funding of our schools, the money has to come from somewhere. Unfortunately, it seems that the state lotteries don’t have as much impact as we are led to believe.