ABC11 Investigates

Lawmakers could change how lottery funds education

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

State lawmakers may want to remove education from the North Carolina Education Lottery. The budget passed in the State Senate last week strips away what many see as a critical tool to get that money to schools.

How the money is supposed to be spent is clearly spelled out in the 2005 law that set up the education lottery. Fifty percent goes to classrooms and early education, 40 percent to school construction, and 10 percent to scholarships.

The Senate budget strips all that out. It leaves many wondering if the Education Lottery will need a new name sometime down the road.

"All of the critics of the lottery, way back when, all of their predictions appear to be coming true," said Gerrick Brenner with Progress NC. "They said it was a bait and switch. It is a bait and switch."

Brenner is both a parent, and the head of the liberal Progress NC. Looking through both those lenses, he sees problems with the senate's changes in how lottery money is allocated.

"If the politicians plan to keep their promise of using lottery money for education then why do they want to change the law," asked Brenner. "Clearly they want to break the promise."

Brenner is talking about a change in the Senate budget, which wipes out the old percentage based formula and plugs in hard numbers for this year and next. However, it doesn't say anything about what happens after that.

"The guarantee right now is, it is the North Carolina Education Lottery," said Republican Sen. Peter Brunstetter. "There's been no change to that."  

Brunstetter says lawmakers moved away from those percentages to allow flexibility in how the money is spent, but he says it will stay in education. He points out that's required by state statute.

"For any state lottery, integrity is a very important thing," said Van Denton, with the N.C. Education Lottery.

Denton says people have to trust that money spent on the lottery will go to the lottery's namesake -- education. He says the Senate budget does that for at least two more years.

"Every dollar we raise in the next two years is going to education," said Denton. "[After that] we'll just have to wait and see."

That is what many parents and advocates are afraid of.

Word is that the House may want to put those percentage guarantees back in, but so far there hasn't been confirmation of that.

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