Advertising in schools is a risky business
Two Board of Education members have revived their plan to allow advertising in public schools.
WHETHER advertising displays are inside classrooms or outside on buildings, linked with educational or healthy lifestyle goals, selling commercial access to Hawaii's public school students
would be unwise.
The idea, rejected soundly by the Board of Education earlier this year, should be turned down again.
Though schools are not completely free of messages and representations from businesses and corporations, the state Department of Education should not peddle a captive audience of children to the highest bidders.
Board members Garrett Toguchi and Randall Yee have renewed their proposal to help schools raise extra money. They contend that since there are already commercial notices in schools, such as depictions of Disney characters, banners from companies touting student achievements and brand names on vending machines, soliciting ads should not be prohibited.
Yee and Toguchi say ad content would be limited to messages that correspond to the "mission and educational goals" of the school system, and those that "promote positive behavior."
Few would object to raising money while cultivating good conduct, but there are myriad issues and problems schools could encounter.
Among them are who would decide what messages are appropriate, what standards would apply and which companies or industries would be allowed to advertise. For example, if Nike is deemed appropriate, would another clothing company, such as one that principally sells underwear, also be OK? Suitability of images, logos and pictures would have to determined, and size and visibility would need to conform with state law and county ordinances.
Legal matters, such as entering into contracts, would need to be reviewed along with managing the money a school receives. Neither of these would be easily handled by school personnel -- principals already have their hands full -- and hiring lawyers and accountants would be costly.
Under the proposal, schools would decide for themselves whether to allow advertising, but the nod to local control could pit parents, administrators and teachers against one another. Just deciding a "message" alone might spark wrangling and disagreement.
It is shameful that public schools don't have the financial resources they need to pay for band uniforms, class trips and other things that broaden student experiences. Selling cookies and chili and putting on car washes have become a common part of a school's fund-raising activities. But at least they bring children, parents and education officials together, and everyone gains from participation.
Selling wall space outside the cafeteria to exhort children to study hard and coupling the message with a corporate logo might seem like easy money. However, as one school principal said, "There's always a price for that extra money."