NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 18, 2004

A promise to increase spending on education through earmarked funds has made the Oklahoma lottery attractive to voters. Yet there is little evidence that earmarked funds actually increase education spending, says economist Edwin S. Rubenstein.

One reason is that lottery profits are interchangeable within the state budget. State Rep. Mike Wilt (R-Bartlesville) says that future legislatures can simply appropriate fewer General Revenue funds to education than they would without the lottery.

  • Dr. Alexander Holmes points out that every category of proposed funding for the Oklahoma lottery already receives some level of current funding that can be diverted in the future, or as has been in the case elsewhere, reduced growth from what might have been the case without a lottery.
  • Still more damage occurs at the school district level, says Rubenstein, where voters finally have a guilt-free opportunity to say "no" to property tax hikes and school bond referenda because they were led to believe that after a lottery was adopted, additional monies for education would not be needed.

According to economist Eric Hanushek, there is no evidence to suggest a relationship between education spending and student performance: "There are too few incentives to reward good performance and too few disincentives to penalize poor performance in public schools. They overpay poor teachers (and underpay good ones). They tolerate ineffective administrators at the state, district, and individual school level."

Inflation-adjusted spending per student in Oklahoma has tripled over the last 40 years, yet student performance remains flat at unacceptably low levels.

Additionally, Oklahoma would further coarsen its culture, create thousands of new compulsive gamblers and impose huge social costs on taxpayers, say opponents.

Source: Brandon Dutcher, "Education Lottery Won't Help Students." Perspective, August 2004, Vol. 11(8); and "Education Spending and Performance," Oklahoma Council on Public Affairs, June 24, 2004.


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