Vol. 2, Issue 16, April 24, 2004
Get Away From It All

Virginia Schools Cut Math Classes to Increase Lottery Sales

The Virginia Department of Education is systematically reducing math education throughout the state in an effort to boost sales of lottery tickets.

"Our decision to reduce the math requirements must be understood in the broader context of the Virginia Education System," said Superintendent Jo Lynn DeMary. "Overall, I believe we have acted appropriately to preserve the education system as a whole."

The Virginia State Lottery was approved by voters in 1987. The use of the proceeds has changed over time. In 1989, lottery proceeds were dedicated to capital construction projects. From 1990 to 1998, the lottery proceeds were transferred to the state's General Fund. Starting in 1999, a state budget amendment sent lottery proceeds to local public school divisions to be used solely for educational purposes. In the year 2000, more than 80% of Virginia voters said yes to the creation of the State Lottery Proceeds Fund. The measure, now a permanent part of Virginia's Constitution, directs all Virginia Lottery profits be used solely for educational purposes.

"The Lottery provided over $375 million in support for our education system last year," said DeMary. "We cannot afford to see this source of support shrink due to lack of participation. Unfortunately, this meant that certain sacrifices were necessary."

Current math requirements will be eliminated from high school in a bid to bring the overall level of math competency down to a point where purchasing lottery tickets would seem more attractive.

"Math skills are problematic," said Virginia Lottery Director Penelope Kyle. "Obviously, the ability of our population to understand the odds of winning and effectively manage their personal spending hinders the sale of lottery tickets. The recent Math and Science Partnership Grants won by Virginia school districts highlighted the need for us to take action."

Beginning in September 2004, the Virginia school system will replace all math classes from pre-algebra to calculus with a new series called "American Counting," which will focus on providing students with "holistic estimation" techniques and examples of the things they could purchase if they happened to suddenly come into a lot of money.

"There are a lot of benefits to such a program," noted Virginia Governor Mark Warner. "I think our workforce doesn't really need to know all those advanced mathematics anyway; we can always import people for our high-tech sector. And," he added while rubbing his hands with glee, "it will make passing future budgets so much easier."

The Virginia Algebra Resource Center has protested to the Superintendent and is organizing a sit-in at the Board of Education. The governor has said he is taking "proper precautions."

"You know, I'm told "algebra" is actually a word of Arabic origin," he said to reporters in a press conference, raising his eyebrows significantly. "Do I need to say more about this so-called 'resource center?'"

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