The N.C. Education Lottery is reporting a 21 percent increase — totaling $634 million — for the 2016 fiscal year.
The revenue growth comes one year after critics expressed concerns over how lottery funds were distributed to state education programs.
Kathleen Jacob, a spokesperson for the N.C. Education Lottery, said the increase is largely due to the popularity of January's record-breaking Powerball jackpot.
"From that Powerball, that whole run of that Powerball, we were able to raise $38.4 million for education," she said.
She said the increase could be attributed to the lottery’s instant games — such as scratch-off tickets — and the lottery plans to promote the instant games in the future.
“We are just so thrilled to be able to raise money for education, and we’re thrilled to increase our earnings every year since we’ve come into existence,” she said.
Matt Ellinwood, director of the Education and Law Project at the North Carolina Justice Center, said although more money is being raised by the lottery each year, less of it is ending up in classrooms.
“We are now using lottery money for the fundamentals for our education system, when it would’ve just been out of the general fund originally,” he said.
Ellinwood said lottery money is now mainly used to fund non-instructional support personnel, such as custodians, secretaries and substitute teachers.
According to the 2016 state budget, $372,266,860 from the lottery revenue was appropriated for non-instructional support personnel, and $219,446,843 was appropriated for prekindergarten programs, scholarships, need-based financial aid and the Public School Building Capital Fund combined.
Jacob said it is the responsibility of state legislators, not the education lottery, to decide how funds are distributed.
“Our purpose at the lottery is to raise money for education, and we are thrilled to do that every year," she said. "It’s up to lawmakers to decide where the money goes from there."
N.C. Rep. Graig Meyer, D-Orange, said the lottery money is not providing a boost to education spending like it’s supposed to.
“The people of North Carolina were promised that the lottery money would not supplant school funding that comes directly from the legislature," he said. "At this point, I think everybody knows that’s a broken promise."
However, Meyer said he thinks the education lottery benefits the state overall.
“It pays for school buildings, it pays for pre-K, it pays for some teachers," he said. "I mean, every county benefits."
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.