Los Angeles public schools open doors to ‘corporate brand identity’

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, December 16, 2010 12:35 EDT
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This algebraic equation, brought to you by Coca-Cola?

Absurd as it may sound, that will soon be a figurative reality for many students in Los Angeles county, as public school officials there have announced a plan to solicit corporate sponsorship to help grow their budgets and retain staff.

In a unanimous vote, the board decided yesterday to allow “corporate brand identity” proliferation throughout the facilities of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The district’s policy would allow corporate donors to earmark what programs they’d like their money to support, be they sports, arts or academic.

While not the first school district to do so, Los Angeles is certainly the largest, according to The New York Times. The move comes amid one of the state’s worst budget crises ever.

The discussion of private money being diverted to aid public schools is not a new one and is not without controversy, but there are reasonable advocates on both sides of the issue.

When two Sheboygan, Wisconsin high schools changed the names of their cafeteria kitchens to “the Kohler Credit Union kitchens” in 2006, critics lined up to attack the plan as indicative of America’s social decline. But the schools took in $45,000 for the re-namings, according to USA Today, and promptly put the cafeterias up for sponsorship next at $300,000 apiece.

That translated into more teachers, higher salaries and newer books, supporters said.

Similar words were echoed by Los Angeles school board members, according to the Times.

“This is really our way to be responsive to that reality; we need to look for other sources of revenue,” Melissa Infusino, the district’s partnerships director, was quoted as saying. “As uncomfortable as it may be for folks, it’s less comfortable to get rid of programs or go through more layoffs.”

The board also agreed to shorter summers, with students leaving classes on June 1 and starting again on Aug. 15.

Los Angeles public schools served nearly 700,000 students in the 2007-2008 season, according to district figures.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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