Budget woes in U.S. municipalities and states are creating a newly aggressive attitude towards novel ways to raise money — and one of those ways could impact public schools.
Now under debate and consideration by the Centennial Public School District, a cluster of seven schools north of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, is whether or not the schools will accept advertising in their hallways.
Colorful vinyl ad wraps featuring large graphic decals could appear on as much as 10% of school lockers, walls, and floors if the school board approves the plan on November 1, reports the Star Tribune. The income (and temptation) from such an ad program could put an additional $184,000 into the school's pocket each year.
In St. Francis district schools, near the Centennial district, the ad program has been approved and ads are appearing already. The ads will result in school income of around $200,000 annually. School districts in Colorado and Southern California are said to be considering similar programs.
It's a trend that isn't exactly welcome by all parents and school board officials. Centennial board chair Christina Wilson told the Star Tribune, "I think it's somewhat unethical to be targeting advertising to our students. ... The other thing is, I like how our schools look. To make our hallways look like billboards bothers me."
But apparently the school ad programs are a symptom of the times. St. Francis Superintendent of Schools, Edward Saxton, says "In the spring of next year, we'll look at the revenue stream generated and make sure it wasn't a distraction to learning. If there are problems, we're obviously not going to continue it, but if they become kind of a normal, everyday deal, it could be just part of the culture."
The in-school advertising program is the brainchild of Andover, MN-based OMCM Marketing Solutions president Paul Miller, who defends the school advertising contracts.
Miller claims "we have about 90% (of) parents' and schools approval" based on polling and school district open house meetings. He says he only accepts ads that are "beneficial" to school children. "We require all advertisers to be education-, nutrition- or health-and-wellness-based," Miller says.
He also told Fox News that calling students a "captive audience" isn't always a bad thing: "They are a captive audience, they're there to learn, they're there to be educated and I think with the messages we're bringing to the school it's just an added benefit for these kids to be aware of what's going on."
Opponents, of course, are eager to differ. That said, America's budget crisis almost makes splashy ads in the hallways of high schools an inevitability. It'll be just one more way for marketers to reach America's children — and for schools to survive budget cuts.