Facing alarming budgetary shortfalls, the state of Michigan is slashing funding across the board. One area struggling to fund basic services is public education. According to The Ann Arbor News, schools in Michigan are facing a $200 per student budget cut this year alone. That amounts to over $3 million dollars that the Ann Arbor School District will need to find in order to maintain the quality of its students’ education. Facing year after year of cuts, administrators have begun looking outside of state funding for more cash flow. To many struggling districts, commercial advertising looks like an untapped resource. These cash-strapped districts, however, must realize that using corporate advertising to subsidize their operations is the responsibility of government, and resorting to corporate sponsorship is antithetical to the mission of public education.
While corporations and local businesses may appear generous because of the large sums with which they are willing to fill schools’ coffers, they are not merely donating their money out of the goodness of their hearts. They are expecting something in return, and that is an increase in their own revenue. Though schools could certainly use the cash these offers for advertisement would provide, the sanctity of the classroom is more important than the almighty dollar.
Many schools currently use donations from the community and fundraisers to help alleviate some of the costs associated with extracurricular activities such as sports. School boards often sell Coca-Cola or Pepsi exclusive vending rights inside their districts. Ann Arbor schools currently have a contract with Coca-Cola; the company has vending machines in the high schools and middle schools. However, recent shortfalls from the state have forced administrators to examine new ways of raising funds.
If schools begin to seek private sources of funding such as advertising in order to finance their operations, it will set a bad precedent for the way education is funded. It is the government’s responsibility to provide an excellent education for all of its citizens. Allowing them to shirk this responsibility and not demanding additional government funds will ease public officials down the road of cutting resources intended for education.
The purpose of a public education is to ensure growth as a person. Schools accomplish this goal through many ways, but the most successful is teaching children how to be critical thinkers. Corporate advertisements do not foster learning. In fact, they hamper education by encouraging thoughtless actions. Advertisements bombard children wherever they go from billboards on the way to school, to television, to movies, to magazines. Currently, their only refuge from this onslaught of mind numbing commercialism is school. To foul this last refuge from materialism would have lasting negative impacts on society as a whole.
Parents expect schools to be able to afford the necessities for the classroom such as books, paper, high quality facilities and qualified teachers. When schools are unable to provide these, they often look outside of normal channels for funding. While this kind of creativity is valuable, turning to advertisements is not a viable option for local schools. Students must be able to experience an unbiased learning environment void of commercialism and rife with critical thinking.