CHERRY HILL, N.J. (AP) — Parents and students shouldn't be surprised to see more advertisements popping up on sports fields and in cafeterias this school year.
The trend of school districts selling ad space for revenue is on the rise across the state, according to New Jersey School Boards Association spokesman Frank Belluscio.
As state aid remains a limited resource and districts are bound by a 2 percent cap on tax levy increases, alternative revenue sources are "increasingly important to the school districts right now," Belluscio told the Courier-Post of Cherry Hill (http://on.cpsj.com/OTm6yf).
Superintendent Michael Gorman said Pemberton Township officials are already in the process of drafting policy he hopes will help the district begin soliciting for ad revenue.
"But it must be constructed in a manner that is consistent with the community," said Gorman. "There are certain advertisements that are appropriate for school buildings and there are ones that do not belong in a school setting."
Consumer advocates say marketers have a lot to gain by getting in front of kids because they can build customers for life.
"Children are especially vulnerable to persuasive advertising while they are still learning how to think critically," said Elizabeth Ben-Ishai, spokeswoman for the Washington-based consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen's Commercial Alert.
According to Paul Boxer, an associate professor in the psychology department at Rutgers University-Newark, advertisements in schools probably won't distract students from learning, but they will have the advertiser's desired effect.
"It's going to make those products sell better to those kids," Boxer said.
Superintendent Mark Silverstein said the Glassboro School District is looking to a more mobile form of advertisement this year.
"We have looked at advertising on school buses as one way to do so," said Silverstein. "Such advertising would offset fuel costs and bolster programs."
Almost two years ago, Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill to allow local school districts to sell space on the exterior of their buses as a revenue booster. The districts can set their own rates.
Colorado, Florida and Texas are among the half-dozen other states that allow school bus advertising.
Though cost is still somewhat of an unknown, the Education Information and Resource Center, based in Gloucester County, is working to create a consortium of school districts interested in selling ad space on buses and expects profits to range anywhere from $500 to $2,000 per bus.
According to the EIRC website, multiple school districts have already committed statewide and Comcast is one of the approved advertisers.
"We have instituted a policy that would ensure that the Board of Education would review requests and specifications for school bus advertisements to ensure they meet with the provisions of the law," Silverstein said. "We also plan to survey community members to hear their thoughts on the issue."
Ads for tobacco and alcohol products and political ads aren't allowed. The law also requires that half the revenue be used to defray fuel costs for student busing.
The other half can be used as the districts see fit.
"Our students' welfare is paramount to us," said Silverstein. "If any advertising takes place in our schools, we want to ensure that is not of an offensive nature."
Superintendent Richard Perry said most of the advertising Haddonfield does on its sports fields typically goes to the local booster clubs.
"We also have corporate sponsorships that include advertising on our fields as part of the contract (Cooper University Hospital) that provide us with services such as physicians at home events and educational seminars," Perry stated.
Gorman said the Pemberton Township district is looking at all options whether that's ads placed on buses, sports fields, hallways, or cafeterias.
"Everything is on the table for review," he said. "We don't want to move forward with just a general focus we want to present viable opportunities."
Gorman could not say how much district officials hope to earn through advertisements, but said every little bit helps.
"Funds could be used for a number of things, but the way it translates is every $50,000 is one teaching position we can save," he said.
Though the idea of hanging ads in hallways is not out of the question in the Cherry Hill schools, district spokeswoman Susan Bastnagel said plans are in the works to begin branding certain segments of the school with the names of local businesses.
The naming-rights initiative is being run in cooperation with the Cherry Hill Education Foundation. Eleanor Stofman, the president of that organization, said it's a win-win for everyone.
"Cherry Hill West has a brand new auditorium that has not been named," said Stofman. "I think they just call it 'the new auditorium.' That is prime space."
Josh Golin, associate director of the Boston-based campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, said school advertisements exploit students who are supposed to learning.
"If we're really concerned about what's best for children and what's best for kids' education, we need to find ways to fund it that don't involve exploiting the kids," said Golin.
He said the messages that children are exposed to in schools are suppose to be selected for their benefit and not because of what the highest bidder can pay it.
Stofman said the naming-rights initiative is a positive way for new businesses to get their name out there while at the same time making a positive financial investment in the local school district.
Since 2007, the education foundation has helped to raise more than $400,000 for Cherry Hill students.
"I don't think people realize how large the district is," said Stofman. "There are an estimated 11,400 students and they represent roughly 8,000 families in town."
Though the education foundation has yet to sign an agreement with a business for naming rights, one such agreement could be finalized soon.
Information from: Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, N.J.), http://www.courierpostonline.com/
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.