Poster Child: Ads on school district property near actuality

Posted: December 05, 2013

A BILL PROMISING to bring millions of dollars in advertising revenue to the school district made strides yesterday when it cleared its first hurdle in City Council.

Introduced by Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, the Philadelphia Advertising on School Property bill would allow for placement of commercial advertisements on school district buildings as a means of generating funds for the district.

"In [Los Angeles], Nike picked up the tab for a [sports] field. That's huge," said Brown.

"It's a win-win on all sides and it goes way beyond Coca-Cola on a scoreboard. New York made $5.9 million just on their [school] transportation fleet alone. Imagine how many counselors that buys back, how many school nurses that buys back and how many arts and culture programs they could reinstitute."

Language in the bill explains that ads on school buildings could remain in place for six months or longer. Ads featuring alcohol or tobacco would be prohibited, along with anything on property with historic value. If the bill passes, it will also require approval from the School Reform Commission for ads to be placed.

District chief operating officer Fran Burns testified before the rules committee yesterday in support of the proposal.

"While we remain impartial as to how revenue is generated, we acknowledge this idea as a way to generate income from nontax revenue," she said.

"The school district will be supportive and cooperative in fully exploring the possibilities presented through this bill."

One opponent of the bill, though, said such advertising would only add to the onslaught of profit-making messages kids see every day.

"At what point does the visual assault of endless clutter of commercial advertising stop, and where is there going to be a safe harbor for our kids?" asked Councilman Dennis O'Brien.

"We need to try to identify the consequences. This is a very, very special venue for our youngest people. I think when we push that water balloon down, we better know every unintended result before we do something like this."

If passed, Brown said, Philadelphia's would join a number of school districts around the country that are experimenting with this, including those in San Diego, Houston and Salt Lake City.

"We have suffered . . . through a $305 million budget deficit, and we don't see any clear, positive signals that that's going to change in the short-run," Brown said.

"I plan to work with the School Reform Commission, who I believe should have the ultimate veto power, but I'm going to be deeply and intimately engrossed in that entire process."


On Twitter: @RuffTuffDH

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