Lottery plan offers lousy lesson in finance

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The proposed funding choices for much-deserved teacher pay raises in North Carolina boil down to two uncomfortable options – fire a bunch of teachers’ assistants; or encourage North Carolinians to throw away their money on more lottery tickets.

Eliminating more teachers’ assistants positions is a key component of the N.C. Senate’s plan to raise teachers’ salaries. The budget proposal there would use the money saved by the assistants’ cuts to raise teachers’ pay by an average of 11 percent. In exchange, teachers would have to give up tenure, as well.

The N.C. House budget would require no additional teachers’ assistants cuts. But the raise for teachers would be limited to 5 percent. And the money for the pay increase would come from a new effort to spur more lottery ticket sales in North Carolina.

That last feature is a head-scratcher. Republican legislators fiercely opposed any notion resembling a state lottery for years when Democrats controlled the N.C. General Assembly. But now that they hold top leadership positions, they’re all too eager to look for ways to increase the amount of revenue generated by North Carolina’s game of chance.

For all the hyperactive marketing that will center on giant jackpots and other cash prizes, the dirty secret is, the state will be hoping for more lottery losers than ever before. That’s the only way the game’s revenues can increase.

Such a plan offers a lousy lesson in finance to teachers, parents and students. And even if it works in 2014, where will the state find money the next time around?