- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 13, 2001

A panel of Fairfax County school officials, parents and students today will recommend the cash-strapped School Board explore raising funds through "corporate sponsorship," including selling naming rights to school gymnasiums, science labs and football fields.
The ad hoc committee also will present proposals on ways for the school system to increase Web advertising and how to create guidelines to minimize the effects of constant advertising on students.
Professional sport teams have reaped millions in revenue from selling the naming rights to their stadiums, such as PSINet Stadium in Baltimore and FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
However, the panel's recommendations have not met resounding approval among the School Board.
"I have a problem with the suggestion that the schools are for sale to the highest bidder," said board member Stuart Gibson of the Hunters Mill District. "This is not suggestive of a society that takes responsibility for funding its schools."
At-large board member Mychele Brickner said she worried that students were already exposed to too much advertising.
"We need to be careful how we target students and with what messages," she said. "But the idea of limiting exposure to advertising and increasing advertising is mutually exclusive."
The committee, which has been studying ways to further combine commerce and the classroom, also is recommending the establishment of an independent third party to explore how much revenue could be generated by such activities.
"The revenue picture is so bleak, but the needs are so great," said Deputy Superintendent Alan Leis, the committee's chairman. "We felt the issue needed to be revisited."
Mr. Leis said the committee is opposed to directly advertising in classrooms. He described possible examples of advertising that would be allowed: posting ads on Web sites accessed by the public, not by students; naming science labs and possibly recognizing them with plaques such as one at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology; and placing logos in gymnasiums, ball fields and auditoriums.
The 2001-02 Fairfax schools budget is $1.4 billion. The county spends almost $9,000 per student a school year. Extreme growth pressures leave the school district constantly scrambling for funds for instruction, technology and school construction, forcing the school district, like many others around the nation, to consider funding alternatives.
Currently, Fairfax schools can partner with businesses only within guidelines set by the county, and they are limited to two fund-raisers each year. Some contests and promotions, such as a reading incentives program, are allowed.
The issue of using advertising to raise money first came up a year ago after private companies approached a number of high schools asking to place banners in gymnasiums.
Nationally, many school districts have agreements with corporations the most common are with companies such as Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. to sell their soft drinks in vending machines placed in schools.
Jefferson County in Colorado broke ground for the linkage between schools and advertising when it sold the naming rights to its sports complex for $2 million five years ago. The school district also signed a $ 2.1 million seven-year exclusive contract with Pepsi that same year, earmarking the money for a new $9 million sports complex. In that contract, individual schools were allowed to keep about 55 percent commissions on the beverages sold at their schools.

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