After Wednesday night, two Americans became a lot richer. I mean over $100 million richer.
What did they do to amount this wealth? They bought a lottery ticket.
On Wednesday, the multi-state lottery reached a record $588 million. More than 42 states, as well as the U.S. Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia, participate in the lottery, according to the Multi-State Lottery Association. Over the past 20 years, lottery winners have taken home more than $11.6 billion.
Beyond the money that goes to the ticket winners, there is the money that the states get for participating in the lottery. States may then apply these funds where they see fit.
The State of Illinois, for example, takes 30 cents for every dollar spent on a lottery ticket. It takes that percentage and applies it to education funding. It may not seem like much, but in 2011, $632 million went toward the Common School Fund. Many states put their funds toward education, while others put it toward environmental concerns or toward a general fund.
As many of you who drove to Tennessee to purchase a lottery ticket are aware, Mississippi is one of the few states that does not participate in the lottery. Putting aside the moral implications of gambling and the lottery, let’s consider the economic or educational benefits the lottery could bring to the state.
Mississippi constantly struggles with education. As one of the poorest states in the nation, it is often difficult to adequately fund our education system. Using the lottery to increase education funding could be a valuable asset for Mississippi school-age children and our state’s future. An extra $632 million, like the State of Illinois sees, would be more than welcome to our Department of Education.
According to the Mississippi Department of Education, it was appropriated $3,177,079,991 for the 2013 fiscal year. If lottery funds were added to this number, the Department of Education would have the ability to apportion money to things that it wished the state could afford: increasing teacher salaries, updating technology, building new or renovating old schools, etc.
Other states that have applied the lottery funds toward education, such as California, have stated that the lottery does not provide much help to them. This is because the California Legislature reduces the amount of money that it apportions to schools to reflect how much money the school gets. Other states say the percentage of the funds that the lottery brings to education pales in comparison to the need. In Illinois, for instance, the lottery proceeds only make up 7 percent of the state’s public school needs.
Other states, such as Louisiana and Georgia, use lottery funding to provide scholarships for their students to attend college. This option, of course, has its own problems to address, but it is worth consideration to help our students fund their higher education. This scholarship program would allow Mississippi children who never thought college was an option to pursue their dreams and would help to alleviate the burden of student loans.
Ultimately, there is a wide variety of issues, both legally and morally, that accompany adopting a lottery, and the proposed benefits might not be as helpful as we imagine. For the sake of helping education, and therefore helping Mississippi’s future, however, it is worth examining.
Anna Rush is a second-year law student from Hattiesburg. She graduated from Mississippi State University in 2011. Follow her on Twitter @annakrush.
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