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"Pace is all. Rhythm is master. Consistency is your friend."

Monday, June 26, 2006


I was driving to work this morning, listening to NPR as usual, and I heard an interesting little news story. Apparently, the Milwaukee school district has decided to sell naming rights for areas within its public schools in order to raise money for strained and underfunded school budgets. They're selling the rights to everything from auditoriums, conference rooms, athletic fields and cafeterias. In Milwaukee, acquiring naming rights can run anywhere from $25,000 to $500,000 with pricing dependent upon the "visibility" or public foot traffic of any particular area. Businesses get advertising and the public schools get much needed money. So why am I not sure how I feel about this?

I understand where it comes from. Those of us who stay up on town politics know that there always seems to be a shortage in the annual school budget. Often times the deficit is so large that administrators can't cover the gap and then must go to the taxpayers of the town and request more money in the form of a Proposition 2 1/2 Override vote. The greatest obstacle to such a request comes when the majority of the population is older and doesn't have children in the public school system. In other words, why should my taxes go up for a service I don't use?

So many educators see selling naming rights as the answer. Opponents call the move "lazy" and state that it is the school committee's and the superintendent's job to convince the town's taxpayers to OK the request for more funds. I agree. But what if you can't get the money year after year? Should the kids suffer and go without? My gut says "No," but something still doesn't sit right with me.

I mean, I'm one of those people that cringes every time I hear the words "Gillette Stadium" and "The Staples Center" and "NOKIA Sugar Bowl" or "Tostitos Fiesta Bowl." It just feels so wrong! We are already bombarded daily, in what seems like every moment of our lives, with advertising telling us to buy this and consume that and our lives will be better. Now, I'm not naive - I know professional, and even college, sports are all about the money, so selling the naming rights to stadiums, while NIKE and Reebok provide uniforms and sneakers as sponsors seems to follow the marketing plan. But is that what we want in our public schools? Or is it maybe what we need seeing as how our public schools are failing? Should they be run more like corporations? I don't know.

Obviously there would need to be certain guidelines put in place. Would you allow McDonald's to buy the rights to your cafeteria when we all know that fast food isn't good for you and kids get enough of it when they're not at school? How about a company who has bought the naming rights to say, an athletic field, and then is involved in a scandal? Would the money for the naming rights have to be renewed annually or are these one-time deals? If they're one-time, is it really an effective answer for the long term? If it's an annual contract, then should we be concerned that the superintendent's job would shift to becoming a salesman in order to secure that money each year?

I don't know. I guess that's why I'm asking. I never would have thought of it myself, but apparently that's where we're at. This isn't a "If the time comes ..." It's happening now and I'm inclined to be cautious. I mean, what ever happened to charity? Why is the prevailing notion that we all deserve something in return for what we give? Why can't we go to area businesses and say that we need help in funding our public schools? Afterall, those schools will provide said businesses with workers in the future? Shouldn't said businesses want to invest in quality education to turn out quality potential employees? Besides, donations can be written off on said businesses' taxes, right?

What do you think?



At 6/27/2006 12:22:00 AM, Blogger cherylann said...

i'm with you. i wish more people took as much of an interest in education as we do, but most people don't. i guess in the milwaukee area they're just trying to get people involved, and i don't think that's such a bad thing... but i see your point completely.


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