Commercial advertising could be coming to high-school athletic fields
The Seattle School Board unanimously voted Wednesday night to allow commercial advertising on athletic fields, stadium scoreboards and school calendars.
Seattle Times education reporter
Advertisements for Nike shoes, KOMO-TV and other commercial products could be coming to Seattle high-school athletic fields, stadium scoreboards and school calendars as soon as the fall under a policy revision adopted Wednesday by the Seattle School Board.
The unanimous vote came amid protests from parents and teachers holding signs proclaiming, "School is for learning, not for marketing," and other messages.
But School Board members called it a modest proposal that was necessary given the school district's tight budget situation.
Advertisements — which would mostly fund high-school student governments — would not be inside school buildings and would not promote unhealthful products, officials said.
Coincidentally, the meeting also featured introduction of the district's proposed $591.4 million operating budget for next school year, which district officials said includes $23.5 million in savings made throughout the year.
The savings mostly come from trims to the central office, continued furloughs for most staff, higher fees for full-day kindergarten and modifications to the district's transportation plan.
Some students would spend up to 20 minutes more on yellow buses as routes are consolidated.
Officials trumpeted the plan's lack of cuts to the classroom.
Overall, the proposed budget for next year is actually $13.7 million higher than this year's — a response to growing enrollment.
School Board members also got their first look at the proposed capital budget of $108.7 million and debt service fund of $84.2 million.
But it was the advertising proposal that drew the most attention Wednesday.
Final approval came after the board passed two amendments — one barring advertising of unhealthful foods, and one limiting advertising to high-school property.
So far interest has come from such organizations as Nike, KOMO-TV and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
The revenues would mostly flow to high-school student governments, which fund athletic teams, clubs and other expenses.
Those groups saw their revenues plummet after the board voted in 2004 to ban advertising and junk food in vending machines. At the time, the School Board promised to repay the money, but never did.
Earlier this year, the board considered relaxing the district's ban on junk food in vending machines as a way to pay it back. But board members preferred getting money from advertising.
On Wednesday, officials praised students for bringing the issue to their attention and said the profits would benefit students by making extracurricular activities less expensive.
"This will do much more good than harm," said Vice President Kay Smith-Blum.
Another way urged
Before the vote, several parents and teachers said the School Board should come up with another way to fund student governments.
"Advertising sales remain the wrong solution to the problem," said Matt King, parent of a sophomore at Nathan Hale High School. "We parents entrust our children's education only to you We ... ask you not to sell off even a sliver of your influence."
School-district activist Chris Jackins agreed.
"Athletic fields are the classroom for athletics," he said.
To make his point, he held a pink-and-white sign proclaiming "Memorial Stadium was meant to honor World War II veterans — not soda pop."
It was the last board meeting of the school year, which ends this week. It was also the last meeting before new superintendent José Banda arrives July 1.
Brian M. Rosenthal: 206-464-3195 or email@example.com.
On Twitter @brianmrosenthal.