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October 17, 2021

Should cash-strapped boards allows ads in their schools?

Okay, so, each morning come September, you manage to separate junior from his laptop and set him down at the breakfast table.

Then, after you’ve yanked the iPod headphones from his ear and turned off the kitchen TV, away he goes to school, where you hope – pray, really – he’ll be unplugged from consumerism long enough to actually learn something.

But what if, as the bus takes him down the street littered with billboards, the advertisement bombardment doesn’t stop at school? What if it actually gets worse?

The above may seem like Ray Bradbury-inspired paranoia, though it’s the fear many U.S. parents are feeling now after some cash-strapped education boards across the country signed deals to allow marketers to splash ads across their schools.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, schools in Pennsylvania’s Pennsbury School District have allowed advertisements in their halls and on their lockers for about three weeks now, to the glee of ad men and the ire of concerned parents.

*Bing: How do children respond to advertising?

As other school boards across the U.S. are doing – similar ad programs are planned or underway in California, Minnesota and Florida – Pennsbury’s 16 elementary, middle and high schools will soon play host to more than 218 ads, some as large as five by ten feet, which will appear on walls and floors and be shrink-wrapped over lockers, benches and even cafeteria tables.

Pennsbury will receive about $424,000 toward its operating budget in the deal.

Okay, now, before we start cursing in the comments section below, one important caveat here: the ads may not be what you think.

Under the agreement, students won’t be faced with in-school billboards for BlackBerry or Walmart; the ads must relate to health, education, nutrition or student safety, the Inquirer notes. Any ads permitted in schools must not directly endorse a product.

So far, you can see some of the ads are pretty benign – one hallway sign, from the U.S. Library of Congress, reads, “Explore new worlds. Read a book.” – though does that change things?

Of course, many parents are upset, but so long as in-school ads don’t directly prod kids to buy products or services, are they okay?

Certainly, we’d be interested to hear an answer to those questions from, say, the people of Nova Scotia, where education cuts to the tune of 22 per cent over three years were recently proposed in the province.

If it meant saving programs or teacher jobs, would you be okay with boards placing ads in your kids’ schools?

By Jason Buckland, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...