BOB CONFER: Advertising could help school budgets | Opinion

Sometimes when you watch the national news, you can see stories in the background about public schools in other states that seem completely alien to New Yorkers – sponsorships of football fields and other publicity in the school grounds.

These revenue streams have provided considerable gains to the districts that benefit from them.

They could do the same for our local schools…if New York State would let them sue.

In fall 2019, the Empire Center for Public Policy published a white paper on this issue. He provided an amazing list of examples of successful business-school partnerships.

The South Bend School District reached a $300,000 deal with a credit union for stadium naming rights and is in the process of securing an additional $3 million in miscellaneous naming rights from numerous companies.

The Prosper School District near Dallas asked its local children’s hospital to pay $2.5 million for the naming rights to its football field.

The Morris School District in New Jersey brings in $3,300 per bus per year by allowing advertising signage on it.

These represent a handful of hundreds of success stories across the country. Either way, the sponsorships have allowed districts to forgo tax increases — and even lower their tax rates — while ensuring their students have the best science, computer and technology labs and access to the arts and crafts. in athletics.

We could use a good dose of that here in New York.

Populations are declining and taxes are high. More revenue is collected from fewer people, compounding the woes that led to the upstate’s decline. This has caused many districts to think about what services, programs and teachers to cut in response to this budget stress, which will ultimately lead to minimal education in many districts, which would remove some of the niceties that families have come to expect and students need to prepare for college, trade school and the job market.

Since they can only go to the well a certain number of times in their beleaguered communities, the districts need alternative sources of income. Advertising does the trick.

But to reap these benefits would require state aid.

It starts with the constitution of the state. Section 1 of Article VIII of our legal framework states that “No county, city, town, village or school district shall give or loan money or property to or on behalf of any person, a private company or association, or a private enterprise…”

Many interpretations of “donate property” language by the state attorney general’s office over the years have thwarted most attempts to secure funding because, in theory, schools would donate property, rented or loaned, although small, to businesses. share their name, logo or brand.

As if the AG’s fury weren’t enough, schools must also contend with the standards set forth by the New York State Board of Regents and Department of Education. To clarify their position on the constitution, the Regents prohibit schools from entering into contracts that permit commercial promotional activity on school campuses.

Thus, because of these interpretations, New Yorkers are denied access to income streams enjoyed by residents of other states, placing the entire burden on taxpayers.

There are ways to fix this.

One would be the complete repeal of the state’s ban on school bus ads. While most buses are not owned by schools, school owners are not permitted to grant advertising. If they could, you would see a marked drop in the rate extended to schools. With the expensive switch to electric school buses coming, this is a “must”.

The Legislature should also pass legislation that would allow commercial activities such as sponsorships, naming rights and commercial advertising on school grounds. If they did, it would require changing the constitution through a referendum on the November ballots. Any legislative proposal must be approved by two successive legislatures before being submitted for the approval of voters.

But, getting the legislature on board could prove difficult. The Empire Center report notes that bills allowing advertising were introduced in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 and were never advanced by the Assembly’s Education Committee despite their adoption by the Senate in 2015 and 2017.

So what can you do as a parent who wants the best for your children, as a teacher who needs resources for your students, and as a taxpayer who would like your burden lightened? Contact your Assemblyman and Senator and ask them to reintroduce and defend such legislation.

As the past two years have shown, in-person learning is extremely important and we face serious needs in terms of technology, learning tools and HVAC, to name a few. . If naming rights can allow districts to acquire these resources while making the difference between keeping or cutting an orchestra or workshop class, it is certainly worth changing the constitution and changing our culture.

Bob Confer de Gasport is the president of Confer Plastics Inc. Email him at [email protected]