School officials in Fairfax County, Va., are considering expanding corporate sponsorship of facilities and programs to help pay the bills in a time of scarce state resources.
“Given the revenue shortage we are facingwe have so many areas of needwe have to look at all potential sources of revenue,” Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech said.
A report released in December by a committee of Fairfax school officials, parents, and community leaders recommended hiring a consultant to determine how much money schools would get in exchange for naming rights. There could one day be a Dell technology lab or a Reebok biology wing in some of Fairfax’s 20 high schools.
But the county’s 12 school board members are divided on the issue, and they predict that residents will be, too.
“I don’t want children to be bombarded with advertising,” said Jan Auerbach, a parent from McLean who was on the fundraising committee. “I just don’t want to see it in a public facility.”
Supporters of the idea said that with state revenue declining and school budgets increasing, it would be wrong to ignore corporate support.
“This is the 21st century. We’re possibly sitting on a gold mine, and we may not know it,” said Dennis Nelson, the principal of Floris Elementary School and a member of the committee.
Similar debates are taking place in school districts across the nation. In 1998, a school district in Jefferson County, Colo., sold the naming rights of its stadium to the local telephone company for $2 million. In Seattle, community protest forced the school board to drop a $1 million-a-year plan to sell advertising to eliminate a budget shortfall.
Fairfax County school officials believe they will lose at least $36 million in state aid because of the sputtering economy. In addition, school planners project an influx of 3,000 students next year, which will cost an additional $28 million.
At Westfield High School, each of the four outdoor scoreboards already carries the Coca-Cola logo. Cell phone companies rent space to attach their towers to the tall athletic-field light posts of eight high schools for an initial $25,000 and a $2,000 monthly fee, said Tom Brady, an assistant superintendent.
Outside the technology labs at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology are small plaques bearing the names of the companies that paid for the equipment in each lab.
Marketing on school grounds allows companies to build brand loyalty with customers at a young age, and it enhances a company’s reputation to support education and scholastic sports.
“The big question is, what’s it really worth?” said Fairfax Deputy Superintendent Alan E. Leis. “Is there really enough money to justify it before we start down this path?”