The football field at a public school here, in the second largest school district in the country, soon may be brought to students by Nike, reports the New York Times. Facing another potential round of huge budget cuts, the Los Angeles school board unanimously approved a plan on Tuesday night to allow the district to seek corporate sponsorships as a way to get money to the schools. The district is not the first to look for private dollars as a way to close public budget gaps–districts in Sheboygan, Wis., and Midland, Tex., for example, have offered up naming rights for their stadiums for years. But the Los Angeles school district is by far the largest to do so, and officials say the plan could generate as much as $18 million for the schools. In the past three years, the Los Angeles Unified School District has cut $1.5 billion from its operating budget, now down to $5.4 billion. As recently as last month, 1,000 more employees lost their jobs in layoffs. And Governor-elect Jerry Brown suggested Tuesday at a budget forum that schools could expect more drastic cuts when he presents a new state budget next month.
“This is really our way to be responsive to that reality; we need to look for other sources of revenue,” said Melissa Infusino, the director of partnerships for the district. “As uncomfortable as it may be for folks, it’s less comfortable to get rid of programs or go through more layoffs.”
As they discussed the proposal at Tuesday night’s meeting, several board members expressed distaste with the idea of opening up schools to business, but concluded that there was no other way.
“The implications of us doing this are really disconcerting and really bothers me to my core,” said Steve Zimmer, who said he reluctantly favored the plan because he saw no better alternatives for raising cash. “The reality is public funding is not funding public education.”
Continuing the budget cuts “would just be a massacre” for public education in the city, he said.
All money generated through the sponsorships will go to the district’s general fund, although they will be earmarked to finance athletic, arts or academic programs at the donor’s request.
In a one-page summary pitch to potential sponsors, the district mentions the possibility of arranging school visits to pass out samples of approved food products or placing the donors’ logos in school cafeterias. Or perhaps they might rather have the naming rights for the Academic Decathlon or Drill Team championships. While the district will soon begin enthusiastically pitching the sponsorships to local businesses and major corporations, they are making it clear that they have their limits. No alcohol, tobacco or firearms can be promoted. No companies that promote high-calorie or high-fat foods will get play, either…