Corporate Sponsorships Infiltrate Schools

With budgets shrinking and federal and state funds drying up, schools are faced with drastic choices. They have to decide whether to cut sports and after school activities or charge hefty fees for students to participate. Many teachers end a school year and have to hang on all summer to find out if they’ll still have a job come late August. This economy makes it difficult to pass levies. For that reason, more districts are eyeing a financial option often seen as a deal with the devil, or at least a conflict of interest: corporate sponsorships.

Some schools have accepted corporate sponsorships for years. High schools in Midland, Texas share a football stadium named after cable provider Grande Communications. Now large districts in Los Angeles and Santa Rosa, Calif. are considering similar far-reaching measures. While sponsorships by alcohol, tobacco and junk food companies won’t be accepted, there’s still a lot of corporations left to pick from and naming an academic decathlon or educational center after a company isn’t out of the question.

If corporate logos on scoreboards are a possibility, and naming rights for buildings, scholarships and academic events are up for grabs, what’s next? Ads on report cards?

Too late. One Colorado school district just sold a space on report cards for students in 91 schools. The deal will generate $90,000 over three years, but for the district facing $70 million in budget cuts, it seems like a drop in the bucket. Is it justifiable to sell space on something as important as a child’s report card for such little money? Is it justifiable for any amount of money? Though the ads were for CollegeInvest, a resource for college savings programs (AKA 529s), which is better than, say, a fast food ad.

And some in Santa Rosa are quick to point out that while corporate sponsorship isn’t ideal, the district wouldn’t be getting its new technology center without it. So a company gets its name on a building, students get a new building, everyone wins, right? Right?

Has your school eyed corporate sponsorships as a way to plug budget gaps? Does bringing corporations into the mix give them too much influence on students, or do students largely tune them out?

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