In a recent column regarding the proposed state lottery in Mississippi, the author advocates passionately for the Mississippi legislature to amend the state lottery proposal, thereby allocating the revenue earned for education, rather than the state’s general fund. A noble call to arms, indeed — but one I believe needs clarification.
A large percentage of the 44 states that have lotteries allocate the money to education spending. Yet as The Washington Post highlighted in 2012, many states which sponsor lotteries to fund public education use the funds to cover education budgets, rather than add to it as lagniappe, so to speak.
As John Oliver points out in his 2014 investigation of state lotteries, state lotteries provided no additional education funding in 21 of the 24 states that allocate lottery revenue to education. As his example shows, North Carolina’s Education Lottery aimed to add $500 million a year to the state’s education budget. Yet the law’s initial language ensuring the revenue supplemented the education budget was ultimately stripped from the bill. Since then, NC has cut education funding across the board, allocating less to the education budget than it did before enacting its lottery.
In 2016, the U.S. Census Bureau ranked Mississippi 46th on education spending per pupil, an embarrassingly low figure. Like the author, I wholeheartedly agree that if Mississippi is to enact a lottery, the revenue should be earmarked for education. But in order for the lottery to have the power to “alter the course of [a] child’s life,” as the author pleads, we must ensure the revenue goes to “supplementing” Mississippi’s education budget, rather than covering it. Only then can we give the youth of this state the tools and education to better themselves, this state, and our future.
Taylor Hardenstein is a 3L Juris Doctor Candidate from Pass Christian.
Read the column “State Lottery Will Move Mississippi Forward” here