Tuesday, a Mississippi House Committee took an important step in modernizing our state and revitalizing our economy by passing a bill that would implement a state lottery.
It has been a long time coming — all one needs to do to recognize the vast revenue eluding us is ask a Louisiana gas station clerk how many Mississippi IDs she encounters when selling tickets on a daily basis.
While it is significant that our state is attempting to catch up with the rest of the nation — we are one of a mere six states without a lottery — the bill contains a flaw, one I believe is fatal. The funds raised would be allocated to the state’s general fund.
This may not seem like a drawback at first. However, a look at how other states spend the revenues is telling. Many states, including Louisiana, Arkansas and Tennessee, direct the assets toward their education funds.
It is undoubtedly clear that our schooling system is crying out for more money. And though it is among many entities lacking sustainable finances, it is the one that many citizens agree is the most deserving and most essential.
If we ever have hope of lifting Mississippi from the bottom of seemingly every positive list, of erasing the inexorable stereotypes that shroud our successes, we must eradicate poor and unequal education in the state. While, of course, it is not as simple as throwing more money at the problem, an influx of funds earmarked for our state’s young, eager minds could only serve to impose positive externalities on our society.
In high school, when I participated in the state’s youth legislature program, a bill mandating the implementation of a state lottery would inevitably arise. Every proposal called for the profits to be administered to educational needs. It is perplexing how our state’s high schoolers can get it right, but our representatives have failed to.
I urge you, if you are nodding along with my conclusions, to reach out to your state representative. Often, policy choices that are unsettling and unsatisfying stem from constituents’ ignorance and apathy.
We are standing on the cusp of something that could either drastically change the way our children are educated or perhaps be lost to mismanagement, fraud and abuse. A simple email or phone call could very well alter the course of your child’s life.
Get dialing, and do not forget — the government exists to exert the will of the people, but it fails to do so if the people do not have the will to make it known.
Julia Grant is a freshman public policy leadership and journalism major from Gulfport.