Los Angeles School District: Brought to You By Corporate Sponsors

December 14, 2010, the Los Angeles Unified School District, in need of $18 million to cover yearly expected budget shortfalls, may vote to approve corporate sponsorship of playing fields, cafeterias, and other spaces on school campuses.
Fast food or sugary soda companies would not be allowed to advertise. Neither would alcohol or cigarette companies.

A Los Angeles Times editorial today gives “reluctant approval” to the idea, mainly because the plan

would allow school personnel to seek sponsorship contracts for certain programs that are now paid for out of the general budget, such as team sports, food services, arts, Academic Decathlon and parent outreach. Corporate sponsors would gain the right to emblazon their logos in the cafeteria, on the athletic field or on printed materials that promote the sponsored programs, but they would not be allowed to advertise.

Regardless, this seems like a well-worn tactic by “big-government”-hating conservatives: weaken the public sector until finally–voila!–the answer seems to be to bring in corporate money in some way. (Look at the charter school movement, or the need some schools find to trademark their school mascots so they can at least profit from sales of athletic team gear.) Take a look at how ten years ago, a company set about trying to “soften” the appearance of corporate logos on school campuses by coming up with their own logo.

According to a recent study by the Trust to Reach Education Excellence, the foundation of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, one-third of schools report that their funding situation is worse now than it was five years ago. [article dating from 2001–ed.]

“The bottom line is that schools are not adequately funded by taxpayers,” said Michael Carr, spokesman for NASSP. “Communities are asking schools to do so much more than they did even 10 years ago, and every new class or program or attempt to bring teachers up to snuff costs money.”

As a result, corporate marketing on public school campuses has become so pervasive that the General Accounting Office, a watchdog arm of Congress, commissioned the first congressional study of commercial activities in the schools two years ago. Today, 19 states — not including Pennsylvania — have statutes or regulations that specifically address school-related commercial activities, according to the GAO report.

A watchdog advocacy group, The Center for Commercial-Free Education, has a resource of commercial-free policies adopted by school districts in different states, as well as tips on how to enact them.

Kids deserve a distraction-free environment where the focus is 100% on learning. And part of what they’re learning is to be good citizens, not good consumers. To expose kids to corporate logos is to deliver a captive audience to companies who know that children lack judgment to evaluate advertising and corporate brands.
Wouldn’t it be better if our schools were not always in crisis, and were instead fully funded as a major priority of local and state governments?

This story originally appeared on Care2.com on December 14, 2010.

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