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More frontiers in school bus advertising

This had not occurred to me.

Why not?

The rooftop of a suburban high school is not a location that companies usually consider prime advertising real estate. But in Humble Independent School District, it may be. The district’s high school is directly in a flight path for Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Although the rooftop plan has yet to come to fruition, Humble ISD has already sold the naming rights to nearly every piece of its football stadium, including the entryway, the press box and the turf. Its school buses carry advertisements for the Houston Astros and local hospitals, among others.

The school district is pioneering a practice that an increasing number of districts across the state are adopting: selling advertisements on pieces of school property to help make up for some of the money lost through state budget cuts.

Advertising revenue can benefit school districts that primarily have two sources of income — what they receive from local taxpayers and what they get from the state and federal government. But with school leaders under pressure to find creative financing sources and few state-level guidelines about what is appropriate, some researchers who study the impact of ads in schools question whether schools fully grasp the consequences of commercialism creeping into public schools.

You have to admire the creativity. Humble ISD has apparently taken in over a million bucks in advertising revenue since 2007. Other school districts have done well with advertising, some not as well as they’d expected. Even for the more successful district advertising programs, however, it just represents a drop in the bucket. Here’s a timely bit of news from Public Citizen:

In “School Commercialism: High Costs, Low Revenues,” Public Citizen found that school advertising programs are providing less than half of one percent of school revenues, and often far less. Public Citizen surveyed the nation’s 25 largest school districts; 10 reported that they maintained in-school advertising programs or were considering such programs. No program reported raising more than $250,000. No program reported raising more than 0.03 percent of the school system’s overall budget.

Those school systems that report having in-school advertising programs include: Cypress Fairbanks, Texas, Independent School District; Dallas Independent School District; Houston Independent School District; Jefferson County, Colo., Public Schools and Orange County, Fla., Public Schools.

You can read their report here. They’re pretty negative about the whole thing. As you know, I have no problem with this practice. We do need to keep it in perspective, however. No amount of ads can come close to making up for the funding cuts imposed by last year’s Legislature.

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