In-school advertising is growing, and we aren’t just talking about a banner or two in the auditorium.
This fall, you’re more likely than ever to come across ads on your child’s bus, on lockers, or lining the hallways. Some parents are even finding ads on their child’s textbooks, report cards, and notes home from their teachers.
Advertising in schools has been around—and hotly contested—for many years, and this week, the Matawan-Aberdeen Board of Education in New Jersey is debating whether or not they should start selling advertising space to corporate sponsors.
“I know that there are two schools of thought on it,” board member Ken Aitken told his local Patch news outlet. “Many people feel that we've been saturated already with advertising in our lives as Americans and maybe we shouldn't have it, but then the up side of it is we may have some money to put into some programs that we would not have been able to afford on our normal revenue stream.”
In-school advertising is an issue school districts across the country, like Matawan-Aberdeen, are increasingly pondering as budgets are slashed and cash-strapped parents are unable to continue upping their donations.
According to an article in USA Today, this fall there will be a plethora of new advertisers staking their claim on space within schools. The article lists three recent hot deals:
• “The college-savings program CollegeInvest signed a three-year deal to advertise on report cards sent home to students in the 85,000-student Jefferson County Public School District, southwest of Denver.”
• “Drugstore chain CVS promoted its flu shot campaign in Virginia and Florida schools with signs at football games, posters at school entrances and in district e-newsletters.”
• “Office supply store Staples this fall will sponsor school supply lists in several California and Texas school districts and provide a coupon for parents, all printed on Staples-branded paper.”
Everything from soft-drink giants and fast-food emporiums to telecommunication companies and children’s television and movie programming are eyeing and buying vital space in schools. These deals, which can bring hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue annually to school districts, do lessen the burden on taxpayers. According to the USA Today article, Education Funding Partners (which connects brands and school districts) expects to bring $100 million to public school districts over the next three years through advertising partnerships. “There's a way to marry large companies and large districts without having to sacrifice morality,” Education Funding Partners president Mickey Freeman said in the article. “The public isn't paying for public education anymore.”
But despite the apparent need, in-school advertising may continue to leave a bad taste in parents’ mouths. Packing a healthy lunch or trying to limit screen time is all the more difficult when your child is bombarded with ads even during the sanctity of class time throughout the entire school day (particularly when new research demonstrably shows how a junk food logo can be imprinted on impressionable young minds when an advertisement is successful).
Meanwhile, in Matawan-Aberdeen, residents have been asked to attend an October 8 board meeting to share their thoughts and concerns about potentially hiring an alternative revenue generation company to find paying advertisers for their schools.
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Kristin Kloberdanz is a freelance writer based in the San Francisco Bay area. She has written for Time, the Chicago Tribune and Forbes.com about everything from economic crises and political snafus to best summer beach reads.