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District Turns to Sponsorships to Ease Budget Cuts at Schools

By Rafael Guerrero, 12/16/2010

Corporate Logos May Soon be Seen on Some Campuses


You may begin seeing corporate logos appearing in Los Angeles schools soon.

photo by Rafael Guerrero The Helen Bernstein High School in Hollywood is one of the schools where sponsorships could be placed under a plan being considered by the LAUSD. (photo by Rafael Guerrero)

The Los Angeles Unified School District Board voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize Superintendent Ramon Cortines to enter into corporate sponsorships of up to $500,000 to address the LAUSD’s $140 million deficit.

“This new and creative approach in raising revenue for the general fund is good for the entire district,” Cortines said. “This will support programs that directly serve students as well as create new sources of revenue for the district.”

The approval amends language in the district’s current policy against advertising and solicitation, which dates back to 1991. The new policy will still ban advertising and solictiation but will allow sponsorships if it is deemed they have a clear benefit to the school or district, has minimal effect on student activities, and do not appear in the classrooms.

The LAUSD could make up to $18 million annually.

“We expect the program to bring in at least seven figures for the General Fund,” said Melissa Infusino, director of policy for the LAUSD.

The revenue would help support programs such as athletics, arts, music and after-school activities. The district has cut more than $1.5 billion in funding in recent years to address the deficit, about 20 percent of the General Fund.

The board will determine if a sponsor meets certain criteria and grant approval. Potential sponsors will be reviewed on the overall benefit to the district and potential risks associated with a sponsor. They will also be reviewed on ethics and corporate responsibility, such as charitable giving, environmental impact and business practices.

Alcohol, tobacco and fast food companies are banned from applying. Sponsors would also not be allowed to handpick specific schools.

“There will be no involvement from companies whose products are harmful to kids,” Infusino said.

Companies that are chosen in the sponsorship program would be allowed to establish a corporate brand identity with limited signage and other forms of marketing. But they would not be allowed to engage in product promotion or the selling of products on school property. Some examples of what will be deemed acceptable include temporary signage in the cafeteria, on menus, at games and athletic fields. The naming rights to athletic facilities and auditoriums would also be included in the deal. Sponsors would also be allowed to distribute samples and coupons during lunch and after school.

Schools will not be required to enroll in the sponsorship program. It is a voluntary program and participating schools will directly receive sponsorship revenue. Each sponsor will have an agreement with up to 10 schools. After the sponsor reaches 10 schools, a new sponsor will be placed at another 10 schools. The sponsors will rotate amongst the eight local districts in the LAUSD.

“We are hoping to have sponsorship agreements in place for several years,” Infusino said. “We have some currently in the works but are still in the negotiation process.”

Infusino must now report to the Board on what to expect in the coming months with sponsor negotiations and setting parameters and limits on the program.

Negotiations with sponsors are currently underway and there could be branding at local schools by springtime.


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