From Fox News to local news to Time Magazine, the topic of advertising in schools is being debated all over the country. Yet, if you walk through any school in America you'll see kids with the latest technological gadget, the most current cell phone, and designer (or at least imposter designer) bags. These are not children who have been shielded from commercials or the products they advertise. Why then is there a growing debate across the nation revolving around corporate advertisements on school property?
In a time of school cut-backs and teacher layoffs, money is desperately needed in many public school districts. Advertising dollars have been a Godsend to many struggling schools, with administrators saying the advertisements provide the much needed funds to keep vital programs alive and good teachers employed in these tough economic times. On the opposite side, critics are claiming our schools should not be in the business of promoting brand names to our impressionable, young children. Who's right?
There are a limited number of options for funding public schools and obviously the current method is broken if schools are so hard up for cash. Local property taxes are a major source of funding for schools but state funds are another big source of support. Money on the state level comes from a variety of sources, such as sales and gasoline taxes. The only way to get more money from these sources is to raise taxes or cut other programs. Another option is for the school to make more money or cut costs. School fundraising raises enough to buy new uniforms for the band or football team but not enough to keep teachers employed. That's where the ads come in and, if you asked me (which you didn't but since you're reading this you are kind of enough to entertain my opinion), ads are a great way to get money.
Corporations are happy to pay a fee to plaster buses, lockers, and cafeterias with advertisements promoting their brands and services. Some schools have offered up their roof for billboard space, advertising to the passengers of low flying planes. In my opinion, there is no real down side to this. Corporations become moderately invested in a school, perhaps making them more likely to offer charitable gifts and donations to the school, and the school gets a shot of some necessary funding...keeping the very necessary teachers they may have laid off otherwise.
In most cases, these kids are going home from school to watch tv or surf the internet. They are going to the mall with their friends. In other words, they are not being harmed by a few more ads at school. However, if they lose their favorite teacher (or their least favorite but most effective one), they could be having some harm done. I think funding an education is far more important than pretending our kids are not already living in a commercial world. I don't believe in redistribution of wealth but I do believe that a good education should be a top priority of any community. If funding that education comes from advertising dollars, so be it. It beats having a bunch of uneducated kids who've managed to avoid seeing a few more advertisements during their day.