Friday, February 29, 2008

Don't Bet On It

In 2001, when South Carolinians were debating the hot topic of a state-sponsored lottery, those of us who opposed it wore buttons that read, "Don't Bet On It." Today, it looks like those words were more fitting than we realized. The SC Department of Education is reporting that grades K-12 will get $0 from the lottery in March due to a $5.5 million drop in lottery proceeds for the last quarter. On top of this loss, their revenue for the month of February was cut in half.

This dramatic drop in revenue does not affect the basic needs of the school system. By law, lottery money may not fund things like teacher salaries, books, or buildings. Even still, the districts have become quite dependent upon lottery funding. Greenville County Schools employ 47 people with lottery money. Charleston County Schools usually receive about $287,000 a month/$3.5 million a year from lottery proceeds.

Education Department and SC Lottery spokespeople are saying that the money should be reimbursed in April. But this raises some important concerns about funding education with a lottery... especially as we try to think biblically.

Is Gambling a Sin?
Scripture never says that gambling, in and of itself, is sinful. When done occasionally and in moderation, it is much like other wasteful forms of entertainment. Gambling becomes sinful, however, when it is done out of a love for money (1 Timothy 6:10) or a desire to get rich quick (Proverbs 21:5 & 28:20). You can see why most gambling is sinful, and why all gambling is stupid.

Should the Government Sponsor Gambling?
Absolutely not. If gambling is a potentially dangerous addiction, a government should not deliberately tempt its citizens in such a way. Both studies and common sense show that the SC Education Lottery is a tax on the poorest of our citizens and encourages sinful, destructive addictions. While I understand that is an individual choice to gamble, I cannot understand why a community would desire to benefit from a neighbor's problem. It's like the state opening liquor stores to raise money for schools... "Sure, people are addicted and it's harming families, but it's for education!"

Should We Gamble with Education?
When gas prices soar, lottery proceeds drop. What if this continues for several quarters? How will this affect our schools? Those 47 teacher's aids in Greenville are not insignificant "extras." If their salaries cannot be paid next year, the district, teachers, and students will suffer as a result. We're not gambling with our money; we're gambling with our kids.

Now that is a sin.


Anonymous said...

The SC lottery and Education--all in one sentence makes no senses to me. First of all, you are right. We should not gamble with education. More importantly, South Carolina needs to seriously think about where their educational system states in comparison to other states. South Carolina teachers start off about $28,000 year. The average salary in North Carolina is slightly higher, but go one state higher. The state of Virginia, number one in education, starts their teacher pay with an average of about $40,000. Virginia's lottery began in 1987, not as an educational lottery. However, over the years, as the revenue came in--they then decided to put the revenue to education. Many South Carolinians voted for a lottery under the ASSUMPTION that it would help their public schools. Many were misled. Schools have not improved; teacher salaries have not improved; and students in the state are still performing below other states. My question is what can the state do to change this? Besides claim to have an "educational lottery."

Brian said...

state lotteries are nothing but a stupidity tax (or tax on the mathematically challenged, if you prefer). if the schools were doing their job then the lotteries would be put out of business.

it is fundamentally inconsistent for a government that claims to serve the governed to sponsor a lottery.

The Culbertsons said...

Anonymous... most of the SC Lottery money goes to college scholarships, so the public school system doesn't actually see a lot of the revenue. You're right, we approved a lottery with no stipulations on where the money would go... a very foolish move on the part of SC citizens and a very misleading move on the part of lottery proponents.

Brian is right. Throwing money toward schools will never solve problems. We need to hold our local legislators & school board members acountable for our schools.

Anonymous said...

Josh...not only do we need to hold our legislators accountable, but teachers as well. For many years, we have all heard, "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." Many people (and I have friends are did this) are teachers simply because they cannot get another job yet. It is the easy way--teachers are needed everywhere.

Secondly, the BIGGEST problem is teachers themselves. Those who are great at it and love it--they end up with the "smart" students--the honor students. Those who are new or have not been as successful on tests--they get the average or bottom. As an honor student, you can learn a lot by yourself or from a teacher who knows a little about it--however, lower students NEED those great and passionate teachers.

Why is it that good teachers are rewarded with "good students?" THAT IS THE PROBLEM.

Anonymous said...

Glad to read your opinion on lottery and gambling. As a child of God, I was always tempted and on an occassion or two would buy a scratch off, just in light hearted fun hoping to strike it But, I was always a little guilty, never fully understanding whether or not it was a "sin". The topic never really meant that much to me to fully research the Bible for the answer.