Letter Describes Advertising’s Harmful Effects on Developing Children

March 27, 2012 

Public Citizen to Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools: Advertising on School Sites Is the Wrong Way to Raise Revenue

Letter Describes Advertising’s Harmful Effects on Developing Children

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School District, located in Winston-Salem and Forsyth Counties, N.C., should not move forward with plans to sell advertising on school sites and naming rights to school assets, Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert said in a letter sent today to the Board of Education of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

Pursuing this path would raise little revenue and would undermine Winston-Salem/Forsyth County District’s educational and child development mission, the letter said. The advertisements would bring only minuscule financial benefits. Moreover, a private company, Education Funding Partners, would act as a middleman between the district and advertisers, taking more than 20 percent of ad revenues.

School officials anticipate generating $150,000 a year in advertising revenue, amounting to 0.1 percent of Winston-Salem/Forsyth’s annual budget. However, even this relatively trivial amount of revenue is likely an overestimation. Public Citizen’s report – “School Commercialism: High Costs, Low Revenues,” released in February – shows that in some of the largest districts in the country, school advertising schemes generate less than 0.05 percent of the districts’ annual budgets.

“Children already are surrounded by near-constant advertising that promotes consumerism and commercial values,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “But the ubiquity of advertising is not a reason for allowing corporate naming rights and in-school advertising to persist; it is a reason children need a sanctuary from a world where everything seems to be for sale.”

Added Elizabeth Ben-Ishai, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert project, “Advertising in schools conveys market, rather than civic, values and impedes the ability of the education system to function as an open space where ideas are freely exchanged and the next generation of public-minded, conscientious and virtuous students can grow.”

School districts across the country that have adopted in-school advertising schemes have allowed advertisers to market products that are unhealthful and inappropriate for children. Even those schools that adopt guidelines to limit the types of advertising they accept often allow for products that undermine student health and well-being to be advertised.

Weighed against the harms of school commercialism, the financial benefits of on-site advertising are minuscule. Given the relatively insignificant revenues that school advertising is likely to bring to the district’s schools, the risks are not worth it for Winston-Salem/Forsyth schools.

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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. For more information, please visit www.citizen.org.