Proposal to allow ads in schools to be refloated
Messages consistent with education can provide badly needed money, advocates say
Two Board of Education members whose idea to allow advertising in public schools was roundly condemned by their peers earlier this year plan to resurrect the proposal next month.
The idea, floated by Garrett Toguchi and Randall Yee last June as a possible revenue stream for cash-strapped schools, was attacked by fellow board members worried that it could lead to rampant commercialization of schools.
But the two members plan to submit a slightly modified version of their proposal, this time as a full agenda item, when the board's Support Services Committee meets next, probably in the first half of December.
Toguchi and Yee argue that schools are already awash in not-so-subtle corporate messages, contained in everything from corporate-sponsored reading campaigns to teacher awards and even school decorations.
"If you go into schools, you'll see Disney characters or Winnie the Pooh images or what have you. Does that make a child want to buy that product? It probably does," Toguchi said.
"But what's interesting is the school pays to have that stuff in there, not the other way around."
They hope to gain more traction among other members by omitting any mention of product advertising in their proposed amendment to the board's commercialization policy.
The amendment would allow paid advertisements in schools but not in classrooms. Ad content would be restricted to messages consistent with the "mission and educational goals" of the state school system, such as anti-smoking ads or other public service announcements promoting healthy lifestyles.
"If we can make money for schools and promote positive behavior, we think it's worth looking at," Toguchi said at a recent public meeting to promote the idea.
Toguchi said rather than distracting schools from the education mission, a steady revenue stream could reduce the amount of time school principals must put into raising much-needed additional funds.
He says he has received "quiet support" from some school principals.
Cynthia Chun, principal of King Intermediate School, said the idea is "definitely worth looking into."
She adds, however, that the "devil is in the details" and that schools could find themselves in over their heads in dealing with advertisers.
"Schools are always looking for extra money, but we have to be careful. There's always a price for that extra money," she said.
Research supports Toguchi and Yee's assertion that schools already are full of corporate messages.
In a recent report, the University of Arizona's Commercialism in Education Research Unit said the trend was accelerating and that "schools have become integral to the marketing plans of a vast array of corporations."
However, it also said the greater the corporate presence, "the less students are seen as active citizens-to-be and rather as passive consumers-to-be-sold."
Board Chairman Breene Harimoto said he is "grateful" for the corporate sponsors that back various school and teacher award programs.
"But it's an entirely different situation when you say to schools they can come in and pay to advertise on school ground. That I cannot support," he said.