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In The NewsNY: Poughkeepsie, Teachers lose jobs, sports cut
The Poughkeepsie school board is expected to reduce funding for nonvarsity sports and extracurricular activities.
12-Apr-2011, Poughkeepsie Journal
CA: Sacramento, On-campus advertising finding new supporters
22-May-2011 Sacramento Bee
Mickey Freeman's eyes lit up when he saw the student-run cafe at New San Juan High School in Citrus Heights. He scanned the walls and rattled off the possible dimensions of signs.
His company – Education Funding Partners – was just hired by the San Juan Unified School District to bring in extra money via corporate sponsors.
Fundraising for schools once meant kids hawking cookie dough and gift wrap door to door to pay for field trips and memorial benches, but now districts are looking for big money to keep programs afloat and teachers employed, and to buy books and materials.
Freeman is trying to sign up enough school districts to make advertising in gyms, cafeterias and other spaces at schools attractive to big-name companies such as Apple, Sprint and Adidas.
Education Funding Partners is one of the many new businesses popping up across the country that specialize in helping school districts find or save money.
"What we're seeing since the economic downturn is that school districts are desperate for funding and are considering things they wouldn't have considered a few years ago," said Josh Golin, associate director of the Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood.
Golin said the advertisements finding their way onto campuses run the gamut – from ads wrapped across student lockers to signage on the top of lunchroom tables.
Local school district officials say pitches from businesses offering to lend a financial hand are coming in more and more often – some good, some bad.
District officials say they need the money these companies can bring, although how much money the companies could raise for financially strapped schools is uncertain.
"We're doing this because education funds have taken such severe cuts, so we have to be open to new ideas to generate revenue," said Trent Allen, San Juan Unified spokesman.
The funds are needed to operate the five academies at New San Juan High, Vice Principal Steven Hunt said. The culinary academy, for example, requires daily trips to the grocery store for supplies.
But Golin says these businesses bring in significantly less money than schools expect and subject students to mandatory exposure to corporate messages.
Boards decide ad policy
In California, school boards decide whether advertising is allowed on district campuses. Board policy generally outlines what types of ads are permissible.
San Juan Unified's board decided to allow corporate signage on its middle and high school campuses, but will limit it to common areas away from classrooms and curriculum. The district's administrators will decide which signs and sponsors are appropriate for their schools, Allen said.
"This will not be a hard sell," he said. "We're not interested in selling things to families."
He said any signs will help build brand awareness for sponsors and will show their support for education.
So far San Juan is the only local district to sign with Education Funding Partners, but Twin Rivers Unified also is considering it.
"These times are forcing everyone to be a lot more entrepreneurial," said Trinette Marquis, district spokeswoman for Twin Rivers.
Education Funding Partners' contract with San Juan Unified allows the company to keep 25 percent of the money earned the first year of each advertiser's contract and 20 percent each year thereafter.
'Doing well by doing good'
Many local districts have been experimenting with advertising on campuses.
San Juan Unified already displays sponsors' signs on its athletic fields and for years mailed out a newsletter that included coupons and advertisements from businesses who paid for its shipping.
Allen said its new partnership with Education Funding Partners takes these efforts "to the next level," allowing for sponsorships of field trips or equipment in classrooms, among other things.
Critics may say that these new businesses are taking advantage of school districts in their time of need. But Freeman calls himself a social entrepreneur and says Education Funding Partners is a company with a conscience.
"We're doing well by doing good," he said.
There seems to be plenty of benevolence to go around.
Kevin Westman is trying to rally support for his business – Cashsaverprogram.com. Businesses sign up to advertise on the website and customers buy a card for $40 that allows them to access sales information and coupons there. Participating schools will get $30 from each card.
The Indiana-based Cashsaverprogram.com was started as a way for fundraisers to collect money but has since changed its focus to fundraising for schools, Westman said.
"There is a huge market right there to focus on," he said.
Westman, who lives in Natomas, purchased the rights to operate the business in the Sacramento region.
A number of businesses are trying to make money by helping schools save cash.
San Juan Unified and Sacramento City Unified are among the local districts clamoring to sign up with companies that offer to help them cut energy costs.
Allen said Energy Education has helped San Juan save 16 percent to 17 percent of the district's annual energy bill. In return, the company gets a percentage of the savings.
Sacramento City Unified signed a 4 1/2-year contract with Energy Education in 2009, district officials told The Bee last year. The district paid a monthly fee of $26,500 the first year. The total payment doubled when the district started paying incentives as it began to realize savings.
"If they are helping us save money, that helps us save jobs that keep teachers in classrooms and sports in schools," said Gabe Ross, district spokesman for Sacramento City Unified.