More Schools Slapping Ads On Every Possible Surface To Cover Budget Shortfalls

As regulators in Washington make efforts to limit how companies market their products directly to the youth of America, public schools struggling for cash have opened the floodgates to advertisers.

The Philadelphia Inquirer recently focused on one suburban school district which has made a deal to place more than 200 ads — some as large as 5’x10′ — on the walls, floors, lockers, locker-room benches, and cafeteria tables of its elementary, middle and high schools. For access to the district’s nearly 11,000 students, its budget gets a cash injection of around $400,000. A huge help for a district that cut its budget by $3 million this year.

“It’s imperative we find alternate means to preserve our programs,” the district’s Assistant Superintendent explains. “We’d prefer to generate revenues rather than cut programs or increase class size.”

There are of course stipulations on the content of the ads.

Explains the Inquirer:

The ads must relate to health, education, nutrition, or student safety, and may not directly endorse products. They tout, among other things, reading and outdoor activities (the U.S. Library of Congress and the Ad Council); organizational skills (Post-it Notes), and concussion awareness (Dick’s Sporting Goods).

Across the Delaware River in New Jersey, public school buses will soon be decorated with ads.

Down in Orange County, FL, (the county that gave yours truly a high school diploma) schools are already raking in the cash from ads on lunch menus and debit cards with school logos.

Out on California, the L.A. School District has approved a corporate naming-rights deal it hopes could result in another $18 million.

The Minneapolis-based agency that made the deal with the Pennsylvania district says it has contracts for nine more in Minnesota and California.

“The school is a fallow playground for advertising brands to reach kids in an authoritative, credible environment where there’s an implied endorsement [by] the authorities,” says Paul Kurnit, a marketing professor at Pace University. He worries about “how well schools will be able to draw the line… We’ve got to be worried about product creep.”

To balance budgets, schools allow ads


Edit Your Comment

  1. agent 47 says:

    Here’s an idea, lets stop giving all that money to countries that hate us and instead, give it to schools. They might piss it away, but hey, I’m willing to take the chance.

    • Cat says:

      The countries that hate us piss our money away too.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      As long as the primary funding method of education is via property taxes, cutting foreign aid is a completely separate topic.

      • agent 47 says:

        It doesn’t have to be. There, cut property taxes too then. Win, win. Unless you’re Pakistan, then it’s win, lose. But too damn bad. What have they done for us lately?

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          There are too many entrenched special interests that keep the current broken system in place. No national politician has made a serious argument for changing the method of funding education from the ground up.

        • pythonspam says:

          It does have to be.
          Property taxes go to state and local governments whereas foreign aid comes out of federal taxes.
          How many states do you know that send monetary aid to foreign countries? (Northern border states that raise taxes on tobacco etc. to drive customers across the border to Canadia notwithstanding.)

          • agent 47 says:

            You’re not understand. The federal gov can take the money they usually spend on overseas spending and just give it to schools. Ever hear of the Dept of Ed? It’s really not a difficult concept.

    • Tim says:

      Foreign aid is a drop in the bucket in the federal budget.

      • agent 47 says:

        Sure, as long as you don’t count the endless wars and the bases we’ve had open for the past 70 years.

        • IgnoramusEtIgnorabimus says:

          +1, if we tasked the CIA and homeland security with making sure timmys got his HW done, the cumulative iq of that parallel universe would be at least 10 points higher then what we have here

      • Jawaka says:

        If it’s such a small amount then eliminating it shouldn’t make that big a difference then. According to this story Israel received a paltry 2.4 billion from us in 2008 alone. Egypt only an insignificant 1.5 billion. I wonder how many school lunches 4 billion dollars a year would pay for. I wonder how many schools it can modernize. I wonder how many college educations you can pay for with that amount. But of course, what good will educating a few hundred thousand American people do when you can support terrorists in other countries instead?

    • Snoofin says:

      Here’s an idea. How about we stop wasting millions of dollars on state of the art athletic fields, and gymnasiums, swimming pools and band instruments. Kids are in school to learn and only learn. The only thing taxpayers should be paying taxes for is the building, teachers, books, and paper/pencils. You want anything beyond that as a parent, pay for it yourself!!

      • VintageLydia says:

        But involvement in sports and arts have a STRONG correlation to good grades. Education, especially while you’re young, should be as complete and well rounded as possible. School sponsored sports and arts are a GOOD thing.

  2. dragonfire81 says:

    I am really torn on this. On the one hand I don’t want to see programs cut on the other hand I don’t really like this idea.

    • Agozyen says:

      I am presently unemployed. That means I haven’t bought an XBOX game for myself since Halo Reach came out and I had to do away with Starbucks and my daily sodas, among other things. I searched for alternatives and ways to save cash. So far I have done pretty well and haven’t suffered in the slightest. I’ve also ebayed a lot of stuff to help make up the shortfalls.

      No one likes to see their budget trimmed and sometimes you just have to do more with less. It’s a fact of life. I think it’s inappropriate to NOT cut budgets in times like this if you don’t have the cash to spend. I’m not saying do away with sports or band, but to only look for more sources of revenue is wrong and will send the wrong message to kids. If you look at everything objectively, you will find a little fat in every budget that can be trimmed. The problem is being objective about it.

      • pop top says:

        If one random person on the Internet can do it, then it must be easy for an entire school system to do it! Transitive property!

        • IgnoramusEtIgnorabimus says:

          transitive property
          if p then q
          if q then r
          therefore if p then r
          …unless you’re suggesting that his savings are being portrayed as school savings i’m not sure where the transitive property drops in

          i believe the format of the poster was that of logical equivalence
          if “I” save money, I don’t “go broke”
          If “school” saves money, it won’t “go broke”

          I can’t find a flaw with either statement, the question is whether “conservation” with “loss” is a higher moral ground then “selling out” with “maintaining current services”

      • VintageLydia says:

        I don’t think you understand how poor a lot of school systems are. Many are in extremely rural areas (like the ones my step dad teaches in) and there is literally nothing else to cut but the number of teachers and programs like band. One of the reasons football is saved, and the arts are cut, is because football generates a (admittedly tiny) revenue.
        And why is looking for outside sources of revenue a bad lesson for kids? I mean, I hate to see adverts in schools, but I hate to see the closing of libraries, shutting down of art programs, and enormous class sizes even more. Wouldn’t generating extra revenue be seen as a lesson of flexibility? You mean to say YOU’D never do a little work on the side to make ends meet? This isn’t living beyond one’s means, it’s increasing the means with which to live.

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          “I don’t think you understand how poor a lot of school systems are. “

          I completely agree. There are many areas where raising taxes isn’t an option because there is essentially no tax base. This has been an on-going issue because all non-federally mandated programs have been cut already and there aren’t many options.

        • Agozyen says:

          I never said looking for outside sources of revenue was bad. What I said was using that as your only option was bad.

          Sometimes you are faced with harsh realities, like not having enough money to make ends meet, even after you have done all you can do. When that happens, something has to give. If you don’t have enough cash to buy the things you need, you either find a way to get the cash or you do without. It doesn’t matter if it’s a person, company, town, school district or country. The principle is the same. Look at the US deficit.

          Last year the Consumerist posted an article about how schools were already asking students to bring cleaning supplies ( This was unacceptable to me then and still is now.

          I have a stepson (special needs – Aspergers Syndrome – 7th grade) in school now, so yes, I do know what state our schools are in. I’ve been to a few parent/teacher conferences already this year and been in contact with some of his teachers. I think it’s a shame that schools don’t have enough cash, but at the same time, it’s not acceptable to keep running the way we have been.

          The story linked above is about how school districts are asking for school supplies. What’s next? Eraser, markers and chalk? Maybe printer/toner cartridges? Or maybe weekly fundraisers? You can bet someone’s thinking about it.

          Something has to give at some point, and I don’t want my stepsons school turned into a billboard. You are of course free to disagree with me, but putting an ad on everything regardless of the financial situation is bad.

          • VintageLydia says:

            They’re already asking students and teachers to bring in school and cleaning supplies and have been for a very long time (everything from tissue boxes to packs of copy paper.) Especially teachers. As I said, many rural districts (which is most districts in the country if I remember correctly) are already at the bare minimum. No, I don’t want out schools to be billboards, either, but when the median income of a lot of districts don’t even meet the median income of the country, what are schools supposed to do? They can’t raise taxes because the people have no more money left to give, and many school systems have already gotten rid of arts, libraries, and have classroom sizes with almost 40 students. Hell, I grew up in a middle class district and some of my classes were over 30 students. What else do you suggest they cut?

            As someone else mentioned above, reducing the salaries of the administration may help, but that may save one or two teachers their jobs, and nothing else. I personally believe the taxes for schools should be collected by the state (and reduce the property taxes to compensate) then redistribute to all districts evenly. Some richer school districts may lose funding as a result but most will experience a gain. Unfortunately, this idea doesn’t sit well with wealthier districts so it will never be implemented. That said, I also think federally mandated programs should be funded by the federal government especially since standardized testing is so expensive (and largely is a poor indicator of school performance, at least when taken alone without context as it normally is.)

            I agree with you on principle, I really do, but you have to consider the reality of the situation as well.

    • MeowMaximus says:

      I think this is a great idea, as long as the ad content is monitored closely.

      • IgnoramusEtIgnorabimus says:

        this is a horrible idea, most of them already got adhd and the cholesterol/sugar count of an 80 year old sailor and now you wish to introduce more ways for them to avoid learning and engage in an activity that relies on denying math?

  3. FreeMarketFan says:

    The more you spend doesn’t necessarily mean better education and smarter kids.

    Back in my day I was in a school district using 15 year old text books with 30+ kids in a classroom in desks that were borderline falling apart. It’s all about your drive to win. Well that and a good support system where learning is considered OK.

    /get off my lawn

    • Wasp is like Requiem for a Dream without the cheery bits says:

      This will work well especially since kids K through 12th grade are known for their intense determination and drive.

      /give us back our nerf football Old Man Freemarket!!!

    • shadowsurfr1 says:

      I think the US already spends more per student and gets less return when you look at other education systems in other countries. We can’t just keep throwing money at it – the money supply isn’t really the problem, I don’t think.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        “the money supply isn’t really the problem, I don’t think.”

        The problem is that throwing money has been the easiest solution. As long as schools are primarily funded via property taxes and stay as segregated as they currently are, nothing will change.

    • pop top says:

      “Well that and a good support system where learning is considered OK.”

      This is a big part of it. Education isn’t as respected as it once was. It doesn’t help that we have No Child Left Behind, which makes everyone focus more on standardized test scores than creativity, problem solving or critical thinking. People complain that American children aren’t doing as well as the children in other countries based solely on test scores, but other countries have a much better education system, as well as cultures that respect being educated.We’re only teaching our children to think in the box by memorizing answers. America was once a great countries with amazing scientists and inventors, but we don’t have that now because we’re dumbing down our youth.

      • IgnoramusEtIgnorabimus says:

        few things,
        #1 its the US not America,, the other 34 nations are quite upset about that abbreviation even though wiki acknowledges its usage, its “of America” if you must; UofI and UIC do not abbreviate themselves to be “Illinois” and “Chicago” for obvious land dispute reasons

        #2 quite a lot of the scientists were imported, especially the Natzi guys

        #3 I fully agree on the culture, I remember watching US serials as a kid and wondering what the hell was the point of high school, there seems to be the collective homer simpson mentality amongst the US youth that being dumb and popular is somehow essential, in other countries the groupings at that educational level tend to fight for the smart kids since they can help them get into college which in turn leads to a clean office job, here it is all about having the best car, being on the football team and going through the most chicks… the saddest part is, the general mentality of the nation tends to be “a collective of individuals aiming to get rich quick” rather then “a nation of coworkers aiming to leave the country better then they got it”

  4. Mr Grey says:

    Any ads from Kid First Industries?

  5. Wasp is like Requiem for a Dream without the cheery bits says:

    You gotta do what you gotta do.

    Haters gonna hate.

    I always thought this would be excellent for colleges, since they are looking to make the big bucks anyway. Corporate sponsers mean lowering my tuition. Right?

  6. RStormgull says:

    Maybe if you reduced the amount of worthless administrators and capped their salaries at something reasonable (not 6 figure) salaries the schools might see more of that money. Take Clark County Nevada for instance.

    RULFFES, WALT O OFFICE OF THE SUPERINTENDENT – SUPERINTENDENT $251,444.40 N/A $291,655.86 Clark County School District 2010

    That’s three hundred thousand dollars a year to the superintendent of a school district that had to slash salaries for teachers (who made 36-56k annually depending on seniority). All of his top administrators? In the 170k range each.

    This is just one district, but I’m sure that many more are just like it.

    • Daniellethm says:

      I agree, the idea that we pay administrators more than teachers is the second dumbest thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life. In fact I just watched a documentary on the subject called “The Cartel”, it’s about admins skimming school funds in New Jersey. It’s on Hulu, not sure about Netflix.

      On top of that, we don’t pay our teachers well enough to attract people that could truly impart good knowledge on our youth. Not that there aren’t great teachers out there, but I’ve met a few that just go through the motions rather than encourage critical thinking.

  7. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I suspect we’ll be seeing more and more of this in the near future.

    The areas with the worst schools are also those have a population at a breaking point when it comes to local taxes. It’s also the same areas that have suffered massive population decline, while being stuck with the legacy of unfunded liabilities.

    My city of 50,000 (down from 100,000) is stuck with close to $400,000,000 in unfunded pension liabilities. There is no way of maintaining the current level of services while paying for retirees. Legally, the pensions have priority over any current expenses. Our local government just discovered a miscalculation and realized it was $4 million in the hole in the middle of the fiscal year. As a result, they just passed an an emergency “temporary” tax increase of close to 40% while gutting services.

    Things will only get worse and the more taxes go up and services go down, the more people will move into unincorporated areas or pretty cul-de-sacs out in the burbs.

  8. Cat says:

    I’m Superintendent of Schools, brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

  9. RStormgull says:

    Maybe if you reduced the amount of worthless administrators and capped their salaries at something reasonable (not 6 figure) salaries the schools might see more of that money. Take Clark County Nevada for instance.


    That’s three hundred thousand dollars a year to the superintendent of a school district that had to slash salaries for teachers (who made 36-56k annually depending on seniority). All of his top administrators? In the 170k range each.

    This is just one district, but I’m sure that many more are just like it.

  10. Rachacha says:

    Teacher: “Children, today’s math lesson is brought to you by delicious, refreshing, ice cold Coca Cola. Turn to page 47 in your text book, and look at problem #2. Sally, can you read that to the rest of the class please?”

    Sally: Billy has 12 cans of delicious, refreshing, ice cold Coca Cola in the refrigerator. He gives 1 can to Sue, 2 cans to John, 2 cans to Karen and 3 cans to George. How many cans of delicious, refreshing, ice cold Coca Cola does Billy have left?

    [later in the day]

    Teacher: OK class, it is time for Phys-ed, sponsored by Reebok Easy Tone athletic shoes. After PE, we will go to music class, sponsored by Eminem’s newest album “%#*@^ the Mother^@*($^@ Police, you &^@*(*#(ing ^&@(*(*&(#(*#”

  11. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    Wait … Corporate Naming Rights?

    So … like naming the school mascot? Taco Bell Chihuahuas? Playing in the Coca Cola Field? Do you have any classes in the new Nike building this year?

    Of course, all I could think of was Hayley McDonald…

    And Ultra Cola.

  12. Cat says:

    About $50 billion goes out in foreign aid. US spending on education is about $900 billion. $50 billion is a drop in the bucket as a part of the total US budget, but it would be a huge boost to education funding.

    That said, the US spends more on education than any nation save Norway and Switzerland . The United States is currently ranked 18th among the 36 industrialized nations.

    • Cat says:

      This was supposed to be a reply to Tim in the first reply thread.

      Foreign aid is a drop in the bucket in the federal budget.

  13. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    As a property owner, and someone at the mercy of the local school board’s tax man, I say yes if this will at least keep taxes from going up. I don’t have much more to give to anyone before I just say screw it, walk away, get a part time minimum wage job, and live in a box under a bridge.

  14. rockelscorcho says:

    I’m a teacher and we haven’t had toner in our printer for over a month, and we just ran out of paper for copies. I’m down for this!

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      The solution for the toner is easy, just break out the ditto machine! Kids today just don’t appreciate the smell of solvent and blue ink.

  15. jessjj347 says:

    Is anyone else concerned that the schools will be selling student’s information to these companies for $?

    For example, when institutions of higher education partner with credit card companies, students will start to find credit card offers piling up in their mailbox….

    • Rena says:

      I’m more concerned about what’s going in than what’s coming out. Think about how impressionable kids are, and then think about the millions of dollars marketing companies put into figuring out precisely how to sneak their messages into your brains. It makes me shiver just thinking about it.

      Advertising geared toward children should be banned, to say nothing of ads in schools.

  16. El_Cheapocabra says:

    I liked this controversy the first time I saw it, when it was an episode of Daria called “Fizz Ed.”

  17. momtimestwo says:

    No amount of money in the world will make the unmotivated kids and their equally unmotivated parents in my daughters school want to learn.

    • VintageLydia says:


      The culture around education needs to change immediately! People who are educated should be labeled as role models, not “elitists!” Expectations needs to bs raised across the board, not lowered to pad graduation rates that speak nothing of the skills of the individual students. If kids are expected to do well by all of the adults in their lives, they have a tendency to so (baring learning disabilities, of course, but given enough time and resources, most of those kids can achieve a heck of a lot more than they do now. Dyslexic people are just as intelligent as other students, for instance, they just need a different teaching method to get the point across than reading chapters in a text book.)

  18. Kuri says:

    If they would stop cutting education first and foremost this likely wouldn’t be a problem.

  19. deadbirds says:

    Anyone else see the movie Idiocracy? If not, it’s cool, just wait a few years and our country will be identical to the society in the film! It’s a perfect example of life imitating art. And scary as hell.

  20. EyeintheLAsky says:

    Sad that schools in America have become more like Amway (with legions of new ‘salespeople’).