Wichita Corporate logos might be popping up in Wichita schools in the future as district officials consider ways to increase revenue while facing a $50 million budget shortfall in the next two years.
The school board is not currently considering any specific proposal but school leaders said they have to consider all suggestions to bring in money, The Wichita Eagle reported. The possibilities include increasing advertisements at schools, offering naming rights to school properties or expanding Education Edge, a foundation that seeks private donations for public schools.
"Because of economics, we have to look at all those types of things — ads, sponsorships... seeing how we could possibly increase revenue streams," said Wichita superintendent John Allison.
Board members acknowledge that some people believe that schools should reject commercialization because students are a captive audience for advertisers. But they note that districts around the country are turning to corporate sponsors.
"It's something we definitely would look at," said board member Lynn Rogers. "But we'd have to be careful with it. And I don't think it's any kind of cure-all."
Los Angeles school leaders voted in December to overturn the district's ban on campus advertising, which could lead to logos on cafeteria walls, ball fields, and on the sides of drums in the marching band. It could raise $18 million a year for the district. Six states allow businesses to advertise on school buses, and eight others are considering allowing the practice, the Eagle reported.
"Nobody thinks that advertising in schools is a good thing," said Josh Golin, associate director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, based in Boston. "It's only when schools are facing these really terrible, unfortunate budget shortfalls that anyone considers it."
Wichita school board president Connie Dietz said she had some concerns when the board hired a marketing firm in 2009 to sell ads for high school gym walls, TVs and sporting events. She pushed to prevent ads for alcohol or tobacco or anything deemed inappropriate. Only 20 percent of the student-produced TV programming in schools can be ads.
"This is an education setting, so obviously the public wants us to maintain a safe and appropriate environment for our kids," she said.
But Dietz said she is open to considering new partnerships, such as if an aircraft company offered to underwrite programs at a new technical education magnet high school, she said.
"In this day and age, we have to look at all kinds of ways of doing business," Dietz said. "If an employer can demonstrate a partnership that improves the educational opportunities for kids, I would certainly be open to those sorts of talks."
Banner and television ads at the district's seven comprehensive high schools brought in about $35,000 last year, Allison said.
"On the surface it sounds like a good idea, but the devil's in the details," said board member Barbara Fuller. "Kansas has always had the funding of education in our Constitution, and when we do things like this we get away from that foundation.
"The question then would become: How long can we sustain that?"
Dietz, the board president, said if school programs or teachers' jobs could be saved with "reasonable partnerships," leaders will at least consider them.
"No matter what you do you're going to upset somebody. That's the tightrope we walk," Dietz said. "I appreciate people thinking and bringing forth ideas for ways we can help our schools through this crisis."