Bucks County’s Pennsbury School District has hit rough fiscal times, and is facing revenue shortfalls as a result of the recession. The district cut its budget by $3 million this year “and dipped into savings for a additional $3.1 million.”
But the district is also endorsing a controversial new measure in order to raise funds: selling advertisements in its schools. Three weeks ago, the district’s 16 public schools installed advertisements. Overall, there will be 218 ads district-wide.
These ads “must relate to health, education, nutrition, or student safety, and may not directly endorse products,” but some of them are sponsored by private companies and advertise products like Post-It Notes. The district hopes it can raise $425,000 annually with the ads.
Assistant Superintendent W. Bowman said the ads came from an “imperative” to find ways to preserve programs. The Philadelphia Inquirer notes that the city chose not to raise taxes:
“It’s imperative we find alternate means to preserve our programs,” Assistant Superintendent W. David Bowman said. “We’d prefer to generate revenues rather than cut programs or increase class size” – or raise taxes, which Pennsbury did not.
Minneapolis-based agency School Media Inc. (which “has contracts for ads in nine other districts in Minnesota and California”) was brought in to help line up advertisements for the district’s schools. School Media chief operating officer Janet Miller explained that allowing advertising in schools can serve as an alternative to tax increases and is an example of “America helping America.” “The less money we have, the more educational programs we have to cut, and $425,000 buys a lot of program,” explained Pennsbury board member Allan Weisel. “We say, ‘Show us another way, give us the funding some other way.’ We need the money desperately.”