The disturbing implications of opening up public schools to become unique incubators of future brand loyalists are numerous and profound. They include acceptance of the principle that schools must scrape for funding wherever they find tiny new revenue streams or do without all but the most basic services. The health of children and impact of sugar and empty calories on cognitive development must be compromised. The role of schools as objective forum for debate is diminished. These deals erode the value of public schools.
The core problem with advertising in public schools is these decisions cannot be made objectively. If it were possible to do so, there would be few, if any, such deals.
TWO DECADES OF UNDERFUNDING
Why is it two decades of underfunding of education preceded the sudden appearance of widespread commercial advertising in public schools and for-profit school management companies? The cynical and paranoid might think it is a plot to undercut public education in America. But we have always expected to get the best public schools on the cheap.
We built the schools on the underpaid labor of women. Now that we have finally embraced the mission of educating all children in America, even those with disabilities, we are unwilling to pay the price for such a system.
Education cannot be funded by potato chip contracts. Schools must have adequate funding. Every dollar invested in children today returns to us many times later. They'll pay your Social Security, write the books we'll read and make the world we hope to leave to our grandchildren.
Some say kids will buy these things anyway. They will spend money on soft drinks and snack foods, some of which will be purchased in schools. They will buy athletic shoes and clothes and wear the company's logos to school. And they are going to buy candy -- lots of it.
THE WRONG MESSAGE
So why shouldn't schools get fees paid for the privilege of delivering the market to the marketers? Because it sends the message to students that they are for sale and unable to make thoughtful decisions.
There is the recently popular argument that we should run our schools "more like businesses." Some suggest the services delivered by schools and school systems are products like any others. If customers like what we've got, they'll buy. If not, it is all right for us to go out of business. Actually, there are some who would prefer it.
This is not, and should not, be an option. Businesses have a "bottom line." They choose who they serve and simply stop providing services that are not cost-effective.
Schools do not have such options, and they do not want them. We'll try to keep the kids from buying your sodas, your chips, your candy and your shoes and jackets that can cause conflicts among children. We'll stand up for the children. They're not for sale.
PROHIBIT EXCLUSIVE VENDING DEALS
I have proposed a policy to the San Francisco Board of Education that would prohibit exclusive vending contracts in San Francisco schools, prevent our buying curriculum materials with identifiable brand names and limit the ability of corporations to underwrite activities in order to have their logos worn by students.
I trust that our policymakers will provide leadership to stop these disturbing developments.
Come back and talk to me about nothing being wrong with these contracts when there are Coca-Cola banners in the House of Representatives and members of the U.S. Senate can only have a TV set if they watch Channel One for 15 minutes a day.
When Supreme Court decisions are posted on a board paid for by Pepsi-Cola Co. and Gap logos are on judges' robes, I'll listen to opinions about what we can afford.
Ms. Wynns is commissioner of the Board of Education of the San Francisco Unified