State lottery could provide for education

By By John Stafford

By John Stafford

Whenever I go out of state, I scrounge up a few dollars, try to not think about that quiz I took on probability sophomore year, and join the hopeful masses who felt lucky enough to ignore the odds in excess of one in 195,249,054, and buy a state lottery ticket.

While this might not be the best investment for my hard-earned cash, the lottery is an effective way to funnel everyone’s delusions of grandeur into financial support for things such as education.

The California state lottery, since its inception in October 1985, has provided more than $20 billion for public education according to its Web site. States such as Missouri use the lottery to fund scholarship programs for higher education, an idea that must sound appealing to many struggling students in the wake of state legislators’ 12.5 percent cut of the U’s budget and a 9 percent tuition hike at the U.

There are 37 states that have a lottery, and all but Hawaii, Tennessee and Utah have some form of legalized gambling. All three’s national education rankings fell within the bottom 20 states in the 2006-2007 “Smartest State Award.” The poll, which compares a variety of educational statistics state by state against the national average, ranked Utah the 38th smartest state. Tennessee was No. 30 and Hawaii was No. 42. Utah has since seen a net education cut of 5.2 percent for the 2010-2011 school year.

A state lottery would be a good way to pick up the slack of budget cuts and contribute billions of dollars for state education.

Many lawmakers would be forced to dance around issues they don’t fully comprehend to accomplish this, but debates over such things as alcohol control have given them experience. This doesn’t by any means make them good at coming to logical conclusions in these matters, it just means that they have had enough experience to force themselves through it and every once in a while, they find a bone.

Recent easing of alcohol laws might not be the Berlin Wall-reminiscent sledgehammer to the Zion Curtain that booze and gambling enthusiasts were hoping for, but it does show that Utah has a governor who is willing to reach across the table and is mindful of attempts to legislate morality.

The fact is that the most successful argument for loosening restrictions on alcohol has been from an economic perspective, a valid claim that Utah’s alcohol laws are viewed by the majority of outsiders as archaic and have a negative impact on tourism. The state’s $1 billion budget deficit means economically speaking, Utah is in trouble. This argument should be used to push for a state lottery that can help improve Utah’s education system.

Utah needs to look at this and many other subjects ethically rather than morally and understand how a lottery could be used to improve the state as a whole. If anything, maybe it could help people appreciate probability and statistics, both in the classroom and in Powerball.

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John Stafford