Coming Soon: The Ad-Sponsored Public School

Filed under: In The News



A Coca-Cola logo adorns the Spaulding High School football scoreboard.Credit: EJ Hersom, Foster's Daily Democrat

Cash-starved school districts are turning to the corporate world to generate enough funds to stay afloat.

Schools in North Carolina, Michigan and Texas are considering displaying ads on public school buses, and a Virginia high school has already started selling advertising on its Web site, according to the Foster Daily Democrat. Missouri public schools could take the idea one step further, as they are considering selling the naming rights to campus buildings.Todd DeMitchell is the chairman of the education department at the University of New Hampshire, and he says the trend will only continue to grow as districts struggle to get enough cash to serve their students.

He isn't concerned about ads on athletic fields -- that has long been a staple of school sports. He is, however, wary of corporate messaging on buildings and vehicles that are part of the fabric of a school district.

"The old metaphor of the schoolhouse gate keeping out the harshness of the world and providing a place of refuge, calm and safety is still very much alive," DeMitchell, a former teacher and administrator, tells the Democrat. "There is a ubiquity of commercialism, the competition of market forces trying to define habits of action through influencing spending outside the schoolhouse gate. Do we really want to tear down the schoolhouse gate and consider the school to just be another competitive market?"

But do they have a choice? States like Michigan are facing fiscal crises that threaten to make good public education almost obsolete. In fact, parents in that state even held a state-wide bake sale in a desperate effort to keep some programs up and running.

DeMitchell admits that marketing in schools takes place every day when students wear logo-based apparel to school. The difference, he says, is that the kids are being their own marketers in that case and aren't being force-fed advertising messages by an institution entrusted with their well-being.

"The issue is when the school takes part in the marketing," and the target is students, he tells the Democrat. "It's not that they have their money, but they have their parent's money" to spend.

Would you object to advertising in your child's school, or is it a good way to generate cash?




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