Private Funding for Public Schools

Several Pennsylvania school districts, such as Upper Moreland, are considering proposals to sell advertising space on district school buses as a means to raise additional revenue. Rather than turning to taxpayers for further handouts, these districts can raise an estimated $1,000-5,000 per school bus by allowing companies such as Coca-Cola, Old Navy, and Subway to directly advertise their products to thousands of students every weekday.

However, like all attempts to privately fund previously government-funded programs, opposition is beginning to mobilize. Critics argue that schools shouldn’t need to sell advertising to raise money. After all, that’s why we have taxpayers, right? According to Gary Ruskin, executive director of the consumer group Commercial Alert, “It teaches children that…they’re for sale.” Building from this logic, we will next have to remove all billboards from roads where the buses travel and commercial advertising from Nickelodeon.

Such initiatives have already been enacted by school districts in other states with great success. Perhaps Pittsburgh will learn from their failed Pittsburgh Promise program, which seeks donations from area businesses to fund college scholarships for graduates of Pittsburgh’s high schools. The program has raised $51,000. If the district were to instead sell advertising space on their 400 contracted buses, they could raise upwards of $2 million.