Increasingly_ schools are forging partnerships with big by hcj


									                  Are School-Business Partnerships
                        Beneficial for Our Children?
Priscilla McCastle asks whether school business partnerships offer the benefits that they so often boast but
rarely promise. She postulates that although these additional funds offer much needed relief for our school
systems, shouldn’t they must be scrutinized more carefully to ensure that they are beneficial to our students?
Before entering into these contracts, those who are entrusted with educating our children should ask and
answer the question, when do these partnerships do more harm than good? In this age of commercialism,
she proposes that these businesses have infiltrated our schools. Skilled salespeople have seduced our school
officials with the promise of unlimited resources for little or no energies. Schools are providing a captive
audience, our children, who are now been seen as potential lifelong consumers.

Jennifer Barasch provides us with a positive picture of the benefits schools, students, businesses and
communities can reap through school business partnerships. At the core of her discussion is the necessity for
businesses to be involved in their community schools. Students need to become better prepared to enter the
world of work, to help companies compete on a global scale and to apply critical thinking, problem solving
and technological skills to their educational and life long pursuits. By providing experts, resources, materials,
and adult role models, school business partnerships can thrust students into meaningful, engaging
educational connections that will benefit the students, the businesses and their communities. Her research
indicates that guiding principles are available, and should be used, to avoid the pitfalls of commercialism in
the schools and allow partnerships with schools to provide much needed resources for students including
scholarship programs, tutoring, incentive programs, educational materials, professional development for
teachers and more.
No. Priscilla McCastle

       After all we know it isn’t hard to take advantage of children. They tend to trust adults especially
       those in educational institutions, so how can we continue to put them in the hands of business
       executives who believe “If you own this child at an early age, you can own this child for years to
       come.”- Mike Searles, former president of Kids-R-Us children’s clothing store.

Schools are increasingly entering into partnerships with big corporations, allowing vending machines,
consumer advertising, and market research firms into schools in exchange for much-needed funds and
resources where the end justifies the means. When do these partnerships do more harm than good? My
esteemed colleague would have you believe that without these programs our schools could not function and
thrive financially, it is my contention that yes, there has always been some kind of marketing in schools, but
now we have the marketing of schools and this is an issue that parents and other community members must
scrutinize more closely. In Brita Butler-Wall books, A Parent Guide to Commercialism in Schools.
“Children are actually now being trained as consumers, not citizens.” As business profits, our children are
learning the values of commercialism and materialism. These businesses have infiltrated one of the last
sanctuaries for our children, the schools, and unfortunately there are many relationships that are irresponsible
and wasteful and can cause more harm than good. We must stand in defense of our children because those
in charge of educating them have become unwitting participants in this push for commercialism in our
schools. With so many conflicting messages about the benefits and dangers of school commercialism, it is
imperative that we take a look at what is currently going on in our schools.

The Commercialism in Education Research Unit at Arizona State University, released in a study in
September 2001, indicated that commercializing activity in and around schools has increased nearly 500
percent since 1990. Children encounter commercialism in schools, in their cafeterias, their classrooms, their
buses, and on their stadium scoreboards. Companies have resorted to engaging kids by distributing fee
product samples and coupons through their schools. Even learning itself is laced with commercialism:
textbooks feature brand-name products to demonstrate math and science problems, and advertisements
saturate classroom magazines and television programs.

On the surface many partnerships promise the allure of big bucks with little responsibilities and seem very
tempting to financially strapped school districts presenting a win win scenario, but in reality they require
huge amounts of school administrators time and energies to monitor and rarely provide those enormous
monies promised initially. Big cola companies went to colleges before infiltrating the primary and
secondary schools. Penn State signed a $14 million exclusive 10-year contract with Pepsi-Cola in 1992 and
in the next couple of years many other signed on. When the University of Maryland sought $25 million from
a 15-year deal with Coca Cola in 1997 to “name” its new field house it settled for an $8 million up front with
$260,000 per year in potential commissions. The University of Minnesota, signed a $28 million (non-
guaranteed) 10-year contract with Coca Cola. Exclusive rights deals with public schools took off in 1994.
Many have fallen short of expectations. Consider the following in Colorado Springs District 11 who had
signed an $8 million 10-year contract with Coca Cola in August 1997 with an additional $3 million
guaranteed if the district sold 70,000 cases of Coke products during one of the first three years. When the
district fell short of expectations in the first year, John Bushey, the district’s executive director of school
leadership and point person on the coca-cola deal sent out a desperate two page letter telling principals how
to boost sales and offered suggestions to circumventing rules prohibiting carbonated vending machines being
on during lunchtime. Bushey concluded his letter with “If we all work together, we can guarantee our
future,” and signed the letter, “The Coke Dude.” These are just a few examples where business partnerships
have run amuck in our schools. Many schools are realizing the fallacy of these exclusive contracts and have
begun enlisting third party negotiators to ensure a fair and equitable deal because they lack the negotiating
expertise. This in itself is diverting monies and energies from our school systems.

Fortunately, there is a growing movement by parents, teachers, and politicians against these exclusive
contracts: In Berkley, California, students protested a potential Pepsi deal; In January 1998 Wisconsin,
Representative Marlin Schneider introduced a bill to stop school districts from signing exclusive marketing
and advertising contracts with any private businesses; In January 1999, Democratic California Assembly
Member Kerry Mazzoni introduced a bill to prohibit the governing board of any school district from entering
into a contract that grants exclusive advertising rights to any person, business or corporation.
Citizens need to keep schools free of commercialism. In September 2001, a governmental report by the
Government Accounting Office disclosed the widespread commercialism in public schools. In a first-ever
comprehensive congressional investigation of commercial activities in the classroom, Congressman George
Miller (D-CA) and Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) indicated that there was a proliferation of adverting in
classrooms, on school buses and through the in-class tv program Channel One. “This report indicates that
many schools and parents are not prepared for the onslaught of marketers trying to reach the lucrative youth
market though the classroom,” Miller said. Miller accused companies of “seeking to exploit the educational
platform of our schools to launch the sale of their products.” The GAO report analyzed the laws and policies
governing commercialism and found that only 19 states currently have statues or regulations that address
school-related commercial activities and they vary widely. Children spend $70 million each year and have
persuasive abilities over their parents’ purchasing decisions. Schools generated an estimated $750 million in
revenues for the vending machine market. Profits from school vending machine sales that used to go to
extracurricular activities are now used to buy office equipment, books, and computers. Soda consumption
among13-18 year olds has gone up 80% since 1980. 12,000 high schools and middle schools in 47 states
contract with Channel One, a company that gives free televisions to schools on the condition that they air a
10-minute news segment and 2 minutes advertising each day. Channel One’s pitch to advertisers is, “We
have the undivided attention of teenagers for 12 minutes a day.” This ad-bearing news program for grades 6-
12 broadcast “free” to 40% of all schools contracting it as a mandatory part of the curriculum. This is
equivalent to 8 million school children across the country required to view the program. In a news release
dated Sept. 8, Birmingham, Al – Obligation Inc, a child advocacy group, accused Channel One of routinely
airing violent entertainment commercials. Another example of inappropriate exposure in advertising is Zap
Me! who will supply any school with 15 computers and an Internet satellite hookup that features constant on-
screen advertising and allow advertisers to monitor which sites are visited, for at least 4 hours a day. 200
schools in about a dozen states have partnered with Zap Me.

Partnerships have even begun to dictate our curriculum. Schools are using children’s books to sell their
brand-name candies. Do you remember the M&M’s Brand Counting Book written in 1994 by a preschool
teacher? It became a favorite of teachers, parents, and children. Now there are countless other books
including but not limited to The Cheerios Play Book, Reese’s Pieces: Count by Fives, Hershey’s Milk
Chocolate Bar Fractions Book, and Skittles Math Riddles. Collectively these books have sold millions of
copies and did anyone think of the effect on our children? These books ignore the use of food for nutritional
value. In March 1998, Greenbriar High School in Evans, Georgia sponsored “Coke in Education Day”.
Students and teachers created an entire curriculum revolving around Coke: a coke executive discussed
marketing with economic students; chemistry classes examined the contents of a can of coke; and social
studies teachers lectured on Coke’s overseas markets. The culmination activity was for the entire student
body dressed in red and white were to spell out Coke for a school photo. Student Mike Cameron pulled off
his shirt to reveal a Pepsi t-shirt and was immediately suspended for one day for this action. If we continue
on this path, we will have corporations controlling our schools. They are stifling teachers’ academic
freedom and are polluting our schools with corporate influences and advertising.

It remains all too true that our schools can always use more resources but are we willing to turn our schools
into malls by placing them at the hands of corporations? What happened to the days of when our children
were considered beings to be nurtured? After all we know it isn’t hard to take advantage of children. They
tend to trust adults especially those in educational institutions, so how can we continue to put them in the
hands of business executives who believe “If you own this child at an early age, you can own this child for
years to come.”- Mike Searles, former president of Kids-R-Us children’s clothing store.” This is another way
that corporate interests have interfered with the parent-child relationships and it is naive to think that
commercial contracts can solve financial constraints of school districts without having additional
ramifications. We must look for new and innovative resources without the constant exposure of
commercialism to our children.

NO Resources:
YES, Jennifer Barasch
When public schools partner with businesses, benefits to students, the schools and the businesses provide for
improved achievement levels, increased feelings of connectedness to the community, increases in resources
and materials for schools, as well as, increased profits and customer usage at the companies and improved
moral for employees working at the businesses who take the time to work with schools (Acton-Boxborough
Regional Schools website retrieved May 29, 2005 from;
Bainbridge & Sundre, 1991; CPS website, 2003, retrieved May 29, 2005 from

Since the 1980’s, a new era of business involvement in public schools has dawned. The beginnings of the
global marketplace signaled competition from abroad for American businesses. Coupled with new
technologies and better understandings of how people learn, it became clear that businesses needed to get
involved with schools to help them provide more meaningful, engaged learning opportunities and better
prepare students to meet the challenges they will face once they leave school, and that businesses face in the
new era of competition(Bainbridge & Sundre, 1991; D’Amico, 1994 retrieved May 29, 2005 from; Laurita, 2001-2005). Michael Fullan and
Andy Hargreaves, international experts on educational reform, characterize it this way:

       With new technologies breaking down the walls of schooling, increasing cultural diversity prompting
       teachers to connect more with the community, and parents and corporations demanding more
       influence on how today's children and tomorrow's adults should be educated, it is clear that the
       boundaries of the school are now more transparent and permeable. The "out there" is now "in here."
       In times of turbulent social change, redefining one's relationship to the environment is crucial. To
       improve the quality of what takes place within the school, it is vital that educators pay more
       attention to what is happening outside it. (ENC, 1999)

A partnership is an on-going commitment to improve student performance and increase motivation to learn
and gain skills. The National Education Goals developed in 1994, included the vision that all major
businesses would involve themselves with schools to strengthen the connection between work and schooling
(US Department of Education website, SEC. 102. National Education Goals, retrieved May 29, 2005 from In committing to this goal, businesses are
providing educational and life long learning benefits for students (Bainbridge & Sundre, 1991; Fund For
Public Schools website retrieved May 29, 2005 from

The programs the businesses provide are often project based, entrepreneurial, and connected to real world
objectives while demanding active participation, all good examples of meaningful, engaged learning.
Partnerships that work with curriculum, improve the curriculum and work with school and teacher objectives
can be most successful. Specific areas of need and teacher specialization areas should be targeted so that
businesses’ involvement remains focused on educational goals rather than company objectives (Cate, 1992;
D’Amico, 1994; retrieved May 29, 2005 from North Central Regional Education Laboratory website

The Milwaukee Principles for Corporate Involvement in Schools, developed in 1990 and adopted by
organizations including the National Council of Social Studies, National Parent-Teachers Association (PTA),
the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Education Association and the American
Association of School Administrators, recognized that partnerships built on solid principles can lead to
higher quality education for the students. As a means to ensure ethical positive relationships, these principles
include the ideas that involvement should not be pure advertising, should not maintain commercial purposes
as the goals, and should not restrict schools, teachers or students in the use of provided materials or
resources. Partnerships should maintain a focus on support for the school’s objectives as defined by teachers,
the curriculum and schools, should be evaluated on an ongoing basis and should appeal to ethical and legal
resources when involved in advertising within school boundaries (on textbooks, in materials, on scoreboards
or school walls, etc.). By establishing guidelines for school business partnerships, and following those
recommendations, organizations can maintain positive connections without falling into the pitfalls of pure
advertising and benefits for businesses as their goals in the partnership (Clearinghouse on Educational Policy
and Management, College of Education, University of Oregon website retrieved May 29, 2005 from

Besides the Milwaukee Principles for Corporate Involvement in Schools, other guidelines for positive,
student/education focused partnerships can be found in literature on the internet from the Council for
Corporate and School Partnerships, established in 2001 and funded by the Coca Cola Company which is
committed to providing “…information, expertise and ideas to ensure that partnerships between businesses
and schools achieve their full potential for meeting key educational objectives.” (retrieved May 29, 2005
from They provide a how-to guide, guiding principles, and
school beverage guidelines designed to promote education and the well being of students first, above the
goals of profits for companies that partner with schools. The Fund for Public Schools, a New York City
Department of Education website (, The Education Alliance:
Business and Community for Public Schools Partnerships, A “how to” guide for building successful school-
business partnerships that benefit students, schools, teachers, businesses and local communities
( and The Eisenhower National Clearinghouse for
Mathematics and Science Education ( are also good sources for guidelines that will help
partners establish affiliations that promote educational goals, mutually beneficial relationships and success
for students.

The benefits of partnerships for students are vast and numerous. Programs that help develop problem
solving, critical thinking, reading and self expressive skills include school-to-work projects, worksite
connections to curriculum such as apprenticeships and scholarships or a publisher helping a class create a
newsletter, mentorships, and volunteers who guest lecture, tutor, encourage commitment to community
service projects or teach speaking/interviewing skills. These partnerships help develop the students’ feelings
that they are cared for by the community, they provide experts in specific areas that can engage the students,
include staff development as a key component to sustaining learning goals, and connect what the students are
doing in school to the importance of acquiring problem-solving and critical thinking skills for later success in
the adult world of work (Parravano, 2001; Clearinghouse on Educational Policy and Management, College
of Education, University of Oregon website retrieved May 29, 2005 from; Region VII
Comprehensive Center, 2004).

Benefits for businesses in their involvement in school partnerships also help drive the commitment they have
to the students (Wilson & Wickham, 2001). When a student earns a free pizza in PepsiCo Inc.’s Pizza Hut
BOOK IT! program, their parents usually buy other items when they go to get the freebie the child earned
(Boyles, 1999). While some may call this an unethical or borderline partnership because the business earns
profits from the incentive program (Rockne, 2002), it seems more meaningful to focus on the students
achieving the teacher developed standards in reading than on the parents who are now “forced” to spend
money at Pizza Hut. What parent hasn’t provided food, TV time, or other material incentives to try to get
their elementary school children to read more, achieve the curriculum goals, improve their grades or follow
teacher directions related to work completion? If Pizza Hut is willing to provide the incentive, and also
benefits for the arrangement, where is the downside to this equation? Nothing is stopping the other children
in the family from attempting to meet their teachers’ standards and earn the reward as well. Is Pizza Hut
forcing parents to buy extras to go with the freebie pizzas? No, it’s not a buy one, get one coupon…it’s one
free ( Certainly they hope that families will buy more when they come for
the freebie, and most probably do, but final spending decisions are left to the adults in the family of the child
who earned the incentive while developing a skill, learning to set and meet goals, and following teacher and
program directions. All of these are skills that will help the child succeed, not just in earning a free pizza, but
in furthering her/his education and later pursuits in life.
Businesses also benefit when they sponsor educational materials, school programs or activities and gain
exclusive agreements in exchange for providing a service or subsidizing a program. If these benefits to
businesses come on the heals of commitment to educational pursuits, increased academic excellence,
provision of resources required by students or that supplement the learning process, the opportunity to make
connections to the real world, development of new learning models such as inquiry learning, and materials
and programs where otherwise there would be none, than they are maintaining the principles for corporate
involvement and bettering the academic lives of our students (retrieved May 29, 2005 from; Clearinghouse on Educational Policy and Management, College of Education,
University of Oregon website retrieved May 29, 2005 from

When businesses provide mentors, internships, work experience, training workshops, staff development,
guest lecturers, incentives to meet school, curriculum or teacher developed goals, materials and resources
directly tied to learning standards and connections to the community, they also benefit. Whether they are
immediate benefits such as more families in the community using their products or patronizing their stores,
and improved employee moral, or extended benefits like having to do less basic skills training of first year
(unprepared) employees because the workforce is now better trained during school and having more
technologically advanced employees due to their pairing with experts during their school years, than the
benefits of partnering with schools are worthwhile, for the students, the schools and the businesses
(Clearinghouse on Educational Policy and Management, College of Education, University of Oregon website
retrieved May 29, 2005 from; CPS website,
2003, retrieved May 29, 2005 from
ml;You, 2001)

Without connective partnerships between schools and businesses focused on educational objectives with
benefits for students, schools and businesses, our American labor force and society will struggle to compete
in the global marketplace, improve technologically and in math and science areas or even reach the National
Education Goals developed by Congress for attainment in the year 2000, of which key parts were repealed
and left without funding in 1999 without having been met by our schools, communities or families (US
Department of Education website retrieved May 29, 2005 from; Klicka, 2000).
       While one must definitely be watchful for ethical and legal complications that may be connected to some
       school-business partnerships, especially those that directly link advertising and product exclusivity to
       funding or resources, checks and balances, principles to guide partnering, ongoing evaluations and general
       common sense can alleviate many problems before they begin. Legislations such as Senate Bill 435
       ( and calls for guidelines for partnerships to be
       enforced will also help eliminate the kinds of partnerships that establish pure commercialism, profits for
       businesses and may harm children more than help them with the resources that they purpose to provide.

       The benefits of having businesses help schools meet their educational objectives, improve the quality of
       education for the students, develop commitment to educational pursuits on the part of students by fostering
       connections between what they learn in school and what they will need later in life are too necessary for the
       future of our students, and our society, to pass up because there may be some questionable partnerships that
       need to be weeded out in the process of developing the positive school business relationships.

       YES References:

Acton-Boxborough Regional Schools website

Bainbridge, W. & Sundre, S. 1991. Employment objectives increasingly linked to school/business

       partnerships. Retrieved May 29, 2005 from

Boyles, D. 1999. School-business partnerships: Reading between the bottom lines. Retrieved May 29, 2005

Clearinghouse on Educational Policy and Management, College of Education, University of Oregon website

Clearinghouse on Educational Policy and Management, College of Education, University of Oregon website

CPS website, 2003. Retrieved May 29, 2005 from
D’Amico, J. 1994; Cate, L. 1992. Cited on North Central Regional Education Laboratory website. Retrieved May
       29, 2005 from

Education Alliance: Business and Community for Public Schools. Partnerships: A how to guide for building
       successful school-business partnerships that benefit students, schools, teachers, businesses and local
       communities. Retrieved May 29, 2005 from

Fullan, M. & Hargreaves, A. cited by Thorson, A. 2001. The real bottom line. ENC Focus 8(1) p.4-5. Retrieved May
       29, 2005 from

Home School Legal Defense Association, 2000. Goals 2000: underachieving program to be expelled in September.
       Retrieved May 29, 2005 from

Klicka, C. 2000. Retrieved May 29, 2005 from

Laurita, P. 2001. History of school-business partnerships. Retrieved May 29, 2005 from

Parravan, C. 2001. The School-Business partnership: what can it offer? ENC Focus 8(1) p.14. Retrieved May 29,
       2005 from

Region VII Comprehensive Center, 2004. Retrieved May 29, 2005 from

Rockne, J. 2002. Branded: Corporations and our schools. Retrieved May 29, 2005 from

Senate Bill 435, 2001. Retrieved May 29, 2005 from

US Department of Education website. Retrieved May 29, 2005 from

US Department of Education website, SEC. 102. National Education Goals. Retrieved May 29, 2005 from
Wilson, J. & Wickham, V. 2001. Seeking ways to improve math achievement? Try the mall! ENC Focus 8(1) p.32-
       33. Retrieved May 29, 2005 from

You, A. 2001.Guidelines for effective partnerships. ENC Focus 8(1) p.18-19. Retrieved May 29, 2005 from

Additional website resources. Retrieved May 29, 2005 from

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