PUSD Foundation pushes corporate sponsorship in schools
By Emily Sorensen
Searching for new revenue for the district, the Poway Unified School District Foundation on Tuesday presented the school board a few radical ideas involving the possible use of corporate sponsorships.
The foundation has suggested that in addition to modifying current traditional fundraising, schools look to entering into corporate sponsoring partnerships to generate much-needed revenue, such as with Sports Authority and Nike, or Pomerado Health.
“The sky’s the limit for what we are willing to do,” said Fred Pierce of the PUSD Foundation.
No decisions were made at the day long board workshop, although there was much discussion between the foundation and the school board members.
The foundation spent $50,000 on consultants to figure out how the district could best generate more revenue for the schools. The motto of its new agenda is “building private support for public education,” using the practices of higher education and private K-12 schools as a model.
While there isn’t any worry about your child having to attend Brand Name High, sample proposals of corporate sponsorships were presented to the board, including exclusive athletics partnerships, advertising on buses, and affinity partnerships with financial institutions.
One of the examples Barry Siegel, one of the foundation’s consultants and father of a PUSD student, gave of a possible corporate sponsoring partnership was that of an exclusive athletics marketing partner, with Sports Authority and Nike and the five PUSD high schools with sports teams.
In the example partnership, Sports Authority would exclusively provide athletic uniforms and equipment to the high schools, have exclusive rights to on-campus signage and operating student athletic apparel stores on campus and in their own stores, be able to conduct on-campus tailored programs, have email access to PUSD high school students and families, and have the right to designate marketing materials. In return, the school district would be provided $350,000 a year for three years and receive mutually decided royalties from the student apparel stores.
Another proposed idea was contracting with a single corporation to place an advertisement on school buses, as well as a patch of the company logo on the sleeves of the drivers. A further suggestion of allowing audio advertising in between age-appropriate music on the buses yielded some negative reaction, as was any other suggestion of direct advertising to a captive audience, such as blurbs to watch television shows on network-produced educational video segments.
There were a number of concerns from the school board over the idea of corporate sponsorship. One worry expressed was what will happen to small businesses in the community if exclusivity contracts are given to large corporations. Siegel assured that the foundation would sit down and figure out what was best for everyone involved, including small businesses. Still, board member Todd Gutschow said, “No matter how careful we are, we’re going to take away from someone, and someone will be unhappy.” The idea was proposed to identify local vendors and discover how much business they would lose if the schools entered an exclusive contract with corporations.
Another big concern raised by the board was that of the privacy of PUSD students and their families, who would have their email addresses given to the corporations. The foundation assured that families would be able to opt-out of the corporate emails, and every communication sent would be determined by the district.
“We don’t want parents to become immune to us,” said Pierce. “But the greatest asset we have is access to the community.”
There was no outright opposition of the proposal, though some board members seemed more resigned than excited about the idea of corporate sponsorship in schools.
“It saddens me that it’s come to this, but it is what it is,” said Penny Ranftle. “As long as it’s done tastefully, I’ll accept it.”
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