Apparently bake sales just don’t cook up enough cash these days. Schools reeling from budget cuts are looking at new ways to find extra cash, like campus ads, which isn’t sitting well with everyone.
The Sweetwater Union High School District is set to approve its first on-campus advertiser on Monday under a recently adopted policy to allow advertising inside the district's 15 high schools.
Sweetwater is the latest cash-squeezed district to resort to commercials to generate revenue.
Reeling from state budget cuts with no relief in sight, districts are finding that one of the most lucrative cash-generators is advertising to students, which is raising concerns over the role of schools in promoting commercial brands and products to a captive audience of impressionable youngsters.
"I can turn off the TV, I can take away the magazine, but I can't not send my kids to school," said Lisa Ray, founder of Parents for Ethical Marketing. "I totally understand the position school districts are in, but this is just not a good solution."
Parents said they're generally in favor of the idea in light of the funding hit. Sally Boucree, parent of a senior at Sweetwater's Otay Ranch High School, said she wouldn't like to see consumer-style ads, but ads for colleges are ideal.
"I don't like the idea of people pushing an agenda. We have enough commercials on TV as it is," she said. "But marketing education is awesome. It makes kids aware of opportunities."
Sweetwater's first proposed advertiser is Platt College, a local art and design school that would pay $6,000 to place two banners in each high school.
Not all districts are warm to the idea. Citing ethical concerns, the San Diego Unified School District last week rejected a proposal to allow on-campus advertising.
The proposed policy is modeled on others that have embraced corporate sponsors in the last two years, including districts that cover Miami and Orlando in Florida, and Santa Rosa.
Public schools began to embrace corporate sponsors in the 1990s, initially by allowing ads on school buses and then in extracurricular areas like athletic fields, said Cathy Christie, chief of staff for Education Committee of the States, a Denver-based group that researches education trends.
The Sweetwater Union High School District, which serves 43,000 students in grades 7-12 in Chula Vista and other San Diego suburbs, hopes to raise $1 million a year under a policy adopted in July that allows ads in hallways, cafeterias and other areas, said spokeswoman Lillian Leopold. Ads are not allowed inside classrooms.
Sweetwater's annual operating budget has been cut $32 million to $333 million since 2007, which prompted the move, Leopold said.