ADS AND SCHOOLS CAN COEXIST

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Channel One recently held a black-tie party in New York to celebrate its 1,000th broadcast of ad-supported TV news shows to 12,000 secondary schools. The company seems to have successfully weathered serious opposition from groups opposed to crass commercialism sneaking into the nation's schools.

In fact, in the current national climate of near-revolt against more taxes, cash-strapped school districts and other governmental units are looking more and more toward accommodation with advertisers.

A school district in Colorado Springs got national attention earlier this year with its successful sale of ads on school buses, in hallways and elsewhere, prompting other schools to consider similar programs.

This summer New York City said it would study the idea of selling advertising space on trash cans and other park locations as well as on school buses and in playgrounds. More recently we reported that eight national marketers paid up to $68,000 for space on school lunch menus distributed as a test in eight school districts. A school district in Louisville said it saved almost $200,000 on menu costs.

But a protest came from UNPLUG, a national organization for commercial-free education: "What we have here is exploitation and opportunism. If schools had what they needed, they wouldn't even consider this type of program."

Well, the same is true of a lot of venues where ads are not universally welcomed, including public transportation, sports arenas, the Olympics and on and on. But the truth is that advertising helps defray costs that would otherwise be passed on to the public, and officials still set the ground rules. The very ubiquity of ads in the outside world makes their incursion into schools no threat to the education process. On the contrary, the funds they provide are a plus.

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