Financially struggling schools nationwide are increasing the volume of advertising that children see in the halls, at football games and even on their report cards.
School administrators say that with a public unwilling to adequately fund K-12 education, they're obligated to find new ways to keep teachers in classrooms.
"We know that we can't continue to only look at ways to cut, we also need to be innovative about the assets we have and learn how to bring in more revenue," says Trinette Marquis, a spokeswoman for the 28,000-student Twin Rivers Unified School District in McClellan, Calif.
Twin Rivers this spring signed a deal with the Colorado-based Education Funding Partners (EFP), a for-profit corporation, with a goal of bringing $100 million to major public school districts by 2015, company President Mickey Freeman says.
"There's a way to marry large companies and large districts without having to sacrifice morality," he says. "The public isn't paying for public education anymore."
Advertising in schools is not a new concept and has been part of athletic facilities and school buses for years. But Dax Gonzalez, communications manager for the Texas Association of School Boards, says more schools are turning to advertising.
•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.
District officials expect to earn $30,000 annually through the report-card deal, says Jefferson County schools spokeswoman Lynn Setzer. While it's small compared with the $60 million in budget cuts the district has made over the past three years, she says every bit helps.
Consumer advocates say marketers want to get in front of kids to build customers for life. Kids are especially vulnerable to persuasive advertising while they are still learning how to think critically, says Elizabeth Ben-Ishai, a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based consumer-advocacy organization Public Citizen's Commercial Alert.
By Trevor Hughes, USA TODAY