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Public Citizen to Phoenixville Schools: Advertising on School Sites Is the Wrong Way to Raise Revenue

April 3, 2012 

Public Citizen to Phoenixville Schools: Advertising on School Sites Is the Wrong Way to Raise Revenue

Letter Describes Advertising’s Harmful Effects on Developing Children

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Phoenixville Area School District, located in Phoenixville, Pa., 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 president of the Phoenixville School Board. Additionally, the school district should abandon its consideration of an exclusive relationship with Coca Cola in order to raise money.

Pursuing this path would raise little revenue and would undermine Phoenixville’s educational and child development mission, the letter said. The advertisements would bring only minuscule financial benefits. 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 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.

Public Citizen is particularly concerned about Phoenixville’s consideration of soft-drink sponsorships via contractual agreements with soda manufacturers. The district is considering giving Coca Cola exclusive pouring rights in the district, which would permit the company to heavily market its products to students. Yet, sugary drinks – including soft drinks – are the No. 1 source of sugar in Americans’ diets and are known to be a key contributor to the childhood obesity epidemic. “Allowing for such sponsorship arrangements amounts to explicitly encouraging even greater consumption of these beverages,” the letter said.

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

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