It was an article and photo that in reality was satire, but the message is certainly a realistic view of what happens in three states bordering Alabama.
Billed as an article by Matt Mitchell of the Ostrich, a publication created by Mitchell with the distinction of being the Walker County Alabama’s least trusted news source, it featured an interesting photo.
The basis for the article is that a new school just over the Alabama-Tennessee state line in Tennessee was recently opened. It was appropriately named Alabama Lotto Players Elementary School and the sign was highlighted in the article.
Because of the thousands of Alabamians that cross state lines to play the lottery, education coffers in Tennessee, Georgia and Florida are recipients of dollars that go to educating their students.
This is nothing new. Florida, then Georgia and finally Tennessee established state lotteries with most of the proceeds going to help fund education needs. Then there is Mississippi, land of the casinos.
Alabama had one shot at joining those states and keep lottery money at home. But a proposal by gubernatorial candidate Don Siegelman in the late 1990s was defeated at the ballot box by Alabama voters.
Because of taking a large donation from then Health South founder Richard Scrushy to aid in the lottery effort, Siegelman went on to spend several years in federal prison before being released recently.
There have been many polls taken in recent years indicating that — if given the opportunity — Alabamians would approve the lottery by a convincing margin if allowed to vote on the measure.
Those polls also show that voters favor supporting some sort of casino operations, even full-scale table games in Alabama. That would certainly benefit Macon County where VictoryLand once provided more than 2,000 jobs and had more than 6,000 electronic bingo machines before being shut down by the state several years ago.
Economic studies have shown that anywhere from $300 to $400 million could be generated in Alabama from casinos and lotteries. The funds could support our education system.
There’s no question Alabama has been dysfunctional in so many areas when it comes to providing funding for much-needed services that many other states take for granted.
Our prisons are overcrowded and dangerous. So are our schools that continue to rank near the bottom of education systems in the country. Our state school board seems to stay in turmoil over its leadership at the highest levels.
Leadership in Montgomery with our legislature, governor’s office and courts is lacking. That’s evidenced by the fact that former House Speaker Mike Hubbard has been removed from office and awaiting jail time once his appeal of his conviction for using his office for personal gain is denied.
We have a twice-removed Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court who will likely be our next U.S. Senator. Roy Moore led incumbent appointed Luther Strange by a healthy margin in the Republican Primary and is expected to do the same in runoff later in September.
And, of course, we have a disgraced former governor in Robert Bentley who resigned from office rather than be dragged through an impeachment process or even be prosecuted for his dalliances with his former advisor Rebekah Mason.
It’s time to begin looking out for Alabama and not send our money across state lines to support education in other states.
Just like the sign in the satire article said, the new school was paid for by Alabamians playing the lottery — in Tennessee.
Guy Rhodes is editor and publisher of The Tuskegee News. He is a former recipient of the Distinguished Alabama Community Journalist Award and multi-time winner in the Alabama Press Association contest for Best Editorial Column or Commentary. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org