Using gaming revenues to prop up a fundamental tenet of state government is foolish. I voted against the lottery. With that said, we need to change the way the lottery operates both to get our money's worth and to restore trust in flawed promises by politicians who made bold statements to get elected.
We have all seen the television commercials with cute children telling us what could have been purchased with the lottery money. Millions for school buses, computers " it is like a smorgasbord of money collected only because of the "education" lottery.
But, let's go back and check history. In 2002, then-Sen. Brad Henry promised revenues of $500 million per year. The first year as governor, the projections dropped to $300 million per year. Now, we are down to around $75 million a year.
We should have close to a billion dollars by now. Where is the outrage? Why is the huge discrepancy irrelevant? The money collected would not be going to education, so the depressed numbers don't seem to rile any feathers.
People play the lottery to win the Powerball, not to help education. There, I said it.
Now, how do we make the lottery better so it will help education and, more importantly, help better educate our kids?
First, stop spending money on advertising to get more people to gamble. People gamble and play the lottery to win, not for any altruistic "education" lottery.
According to a 2008 audit of the Oklahoma Lottery Commission, nearly $10 million dollars went to administrative overhead and advertising. If no one is playing to help the kids, then stop running ads bragging about how the money is being spent. It is not anything to brag about when you are not even bringing in 50 percent of your initial projections.
Second, the formula in which the funds are distributed needs to be reformed to help education all across the state. We should encourage excellence, period. If a student keeps a certain GPA, they should get a four-year college scholarship (at a state university), all bills paid. If a student wants to try a technical school instead, and they find it better suited for them, they should be able to pursue that dream. If a teacher gets good reviews from parents and their students, they should get a pay raise. There should be voucher scholarships for those students who are performing well at a school that is performing poorly regardless of income or race. As our state motto chides us, "Labor conquers all things."
Finally, if we are going to have a lottery, let's make it work. Education is the responsibility of parents, but they should know that if their child excels, the child will be rewarded.
Yes, this is a clear departure from the way things have been done for years and years. If we continue to do things the same way with just more money, our students will be able to graduate from a nice modern school with new computers. But what good does it do if they can't read or write?
The lottery has been an abysmal failure in meeting projections. Let's turn it around, for the sake of our children.
Loveless, a former state Senate candidate, is the CEO of Phoenix Consulting and the business manager for Loveless Orthopedic and Custom Footwear.