Ads on school district property closer to reality

School District of Philadelphia headquarters on North Broad Street. Credit: Wiki Commons.
School District of Philadelphia headquarters on North Broad Street. Credit: Wiki Commons.

City Council members believe they have another solution to the school district’s money problems: ask corporate sponsors to pay for advertisements to hang on public school property.

A bill approved Tuesday by the Committee on Rules would allow advertising to be placed on any land, building or structure owned or operated by the School District of Philadelphia for six months or longer.

The bill still needs to be approved by the entire City Council before it becomes a law.

City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, who sponsored the bill, pointed to the $304 million budget deficit in this fiscal year as a major reason why the city should pursue an “innovative…funding solution,” according to a news release.

“This measure presents a new unprecedented opportunity to grow new financial resources desperately needed to provide and improve the quality of education for our students without raising taxes,” Brown said.

Some ground rules were set, such as advertising of alcohol and tobacco products, or on historic buildings, is prohibited.

Members of Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group  based in Washington, D.C., testified against the bill at the committee hearing Tuesday claiming it would “Undermine education.”

“Commercial advertising undermines the fundamental mission of schools to empower children to think independently and develop problem solving skills,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen.

The group has other gripes, such as its research shows the revenue generated wouldn’t be substantial, and junk food and violent media advertisements are not on the prohibited list.

“Children are already surrounded by near-constant advertising that promotes materialism,” Weissman said. “But the ubiquity of commercialism is not a reason for allowing school advertising – it is a reason why children need a sanctuary where they can focus on learning.”

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