Public Citizen to Anne Arundel Public Schools: Corporate Advertising Is the Wrong Way to Raise Revenue
Letter Describes Advertising’s Harmful Effects on Children
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Anne Arundel County Public Schools should not move forward with plans to sell in-school advertising to corporate sponsors, Public Citizen said in a letter sent today to Anne Arundel County Board of Education President Andrew C. Pruski.
Pursuing this path would raise little revenue and would undermine Anne Arundel County Public Schools’ educational and child development mission, the letter said. The school district recently joined the network of Education Funding Partners, a private company that brokers agreements between corporate sponsors and school districts. EFP will take a 20 percent cut of any revenue raised by the district.
School officials anticipate generating $760,000, amounting to only 0.09 percent of Anne Arundel’s operating budget. However, even this figure is likely a significant overestimation. Public Citizen’s report – “School Commercialism: High Costs, Low Revenues,” released in February and available at http://www.commercialalert.org/PDFs/SchoolCommercialismReport_PC.pdf – 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.
“Corporations that market to children exploit the challenges they face as they develop their identities,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “In-school advertising schemes teach children that they should build their identities and judge their peers based on what they have, rather than on who they are. 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, “Schools ought to foster open discussion and critical thinking. But these values run directly counter to the aims of advertisers, who seek to turn children into a new generation of consumers.”
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 in-school advertising are miniscule, Public Citizen maintains. Given the relatively insignificant revenues that such advertising is likely to bring to the county’s schools, the risks are not worth it for Anne Arundel families.