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Critics warn of an "invasion of corporate advertising" and the "billboarding of America's schools," but in Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District in Grapevine, Texas, advertising has become a win-win means to manage student exposure to advertising while allowing advertising dollars to benefit our students.

In a perfect world, all students would receive an exemplary education, with funding for cutting-edge technology and innovative teaching methods. But in the real world, education typically is mandated but not fully funded.


Some property-wealthy schools in Texas receive no revenue from outside sources and some are required to help fund other schools in property-poor areas. Because Grapevine-Colleyville is a wealthy district, we pay between 14 cents and 20 cents of every one of our district's tax dollars to educate students in poorer districts in the state. When taxes had to be increased in 1996 to pay the fee we call "Robin Hood," it was clear to the school board there was a need for an alternative source of revenue. We identified two ways to raise funds that were not tapped by the state -- advertising and educational foundations -- and we now use both.

Knowing that community businesses wish to support schools, the Grapevine Colleyville school district decided opening the schools to advertising provides two advantages: 1) community businesses get positive exposure, and 2) a managed advertising program safeguards student exposure to ads.


Grapevine-Colleyville approved an exclusive beverage licensing agreement with Dr Pepper for its two high schools in December 1995. That financial benefit was later expanded to all 17 district schools for an estimated $3.45 million in revenue over 10 years. In November 1996, the board of trustees approved the corporate sponsorship program concept, and in 1997-98, 15 businesses became corporate sponsors; nine were sponsors in 1998-99. The benefit in dollars from the corporate sponsorship program was $68,500 in 1997-98 and $50,250 in 1998-99.

When the corporate sponsorship program was approved, the board specified student exposure to advertising be limited and that ads not be placed in the classrooms or hallways. Advertising would be used on gymnasiums, sports arenas, school buses, school rooftops near the Dallas/Fort Worth airport, school cable TV channels and in employee directories and calendars and athletic programs.

The ads do not promote specific products, but feature corporate logos or positive messages. No ads promote alcohol, tobacco or anything else that would violate school rules or student rules of conduct.


Beginning this fall, the district will no longer accept textbook covers that are primarily advertisements. (In Texas, state law requires all textbooks be covered and districts often allow a private company to provide the covers, laden with ads, at no charge.)

Funds from the sponsorship program have been distributed to the campuses to implement new ideas and further the education of students. One middle school was able to produce a larger school newspaper. One elementary school added updated computer software; another offered advanced teacher training. Another established a mini-grant process for teachers and developed a Family Math Night for students and their families.


At the high-school level, corporate sponsorship funds were used to purchase equipment, textbooks, resource library materials and a new curriculum for social studies. Corporate sponsorship funds also were contributed to the GCISD Education Foundation, which generates resources for district schools through a variety of programs. During the foundation's inaugural year, more than $50,000 was distributed to teachers for use as innovative teaching grants.

In the process of implementing the corporate sponsorship program, advertising guidelines have been tightened and advertising is now managed effectively. It has been win-win in GCISD.

Ms. Kane is president of the board of trustees of the Grapevine-Colleyville

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