Cash-strapped schools nationwide are increasing the volume of advertising that children see in the halls, at football games and even on their report cards.
School administrators say that with a public unwilling to adequately fund K-12 education, they’re obligated to find new ways to keep teachers in classrooms.
Take Orange County Public School District in Florida: for the past two years, they’ve been selling advertising space to restaurants, fast food joints, makers of energy drinks, to name just a few. They’ve even hired someone to deal specifically with these sales. In that time, they’ve made $450,000.
USA Today reports on another district:
“We know that we can’t continue to only look at ways to cut, we also need to be innovative about the assets we have and learn how to bring in more revenue,” says Trinette Marquis, a spokeswoman for the 28,000-student Twin Rivers Unified School District in McClellan, Calif.
Twin Rivers this spring signed a deal with the Colorado-based Education Funding Partners (EFP), a for-profit corporation, with a goal of bringing $100 million to major public school districts by 2015, company President Mickey Freeman says.
“There’s a way to marry large companies and large districts without having to sacrifice morality,” he says. “The public isn’t paying for public education anymore.”
Advertising in schools is not a new concept and has been part of athletic facilities and school buses for years, but is has grown tremendously over the past few years.
Advertising On Buses, Football Games, School Supply Lists, Report Cards
* Seven states now allow advertising on school buses.
* Drugstore chain CVS promoted its flu shot campaign in Virginia and Florida schools with signs at football games, posters at school entrances and in district e-newsletters.
* Office supply store Staples this fall will sponsor school supply lists in several California and Texas school districts and provide a coupon for parents, all printed on Staples-branded paper.
And advertising has even reached report cards: the college-savings program CollegeInvest signed a three-year deal to advertise on report cards sent home to students in the 85,000-student Jefferson County Public School District, southwest of Denver.
Is Advertising Harmful To Students?
Recognizing the downside of encouraging unhealthy eating habits, the Obama administration is contemplating new rules for vending machines on school properties.
Consumer advocates say marketers want to get in front of kids to build customers for life. Kids are especially vulnerable to persuasive advertising while they are still learning how to think critically.
Indeed, as The New York Times points out, easier access to advertisers may not always translate to a more thoughtful process for schools.
“There doesn’t seem to be a real handle on the part of the school districts for what they are getting into,” said Faith Boninger, a researcher with the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder, who studies how advertising in schools affects students.
Ms. Boninger said many districts entered into advertising agreements with an attitude of “let’s do it, we need the money” without understanding the psychological and educational costs to students.
Is this appropriate in an educational institution? How are we treating our children? Are they commodities for selling and buying, making money for the school board? Aren’t we in danger of turning out students who have been recruited by our consumer society?
What do you think? Should schools pay their bills in this way?
Photo Credit: Sign Edge Racecar Graphics
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