West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan schools won’t look to ads to boost revenue

/ 26 June 2012 / jennifer

Christopher Magan, Pioneer Press, June 26, 2012 –

Correction: Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan schools saw advertising on the district website and on an LED screen during sporting events bring in a little more than $50,000 in revenue this year.

Don’t expect lockers at Henry Sibley High School wrapped in advertisements or high-tech LED screens pitching colleges or health care to parents at Warriors sports games.

West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan school board members decided to continue with their “cautious approach” to using school advertising to try to boost revenue. After an informational presentation last week, it appears unlikely that board members will venture into any new commercial marketing anytime soon.

“Frankly, with everything we have on our plate, I’m not going to be in a hurry to raise this again in the near future,” said Mark Spurr, board chair. “When we considered it a few years ago, there were much stormier seas.”

The district was one of many in the Twin Cities to look for new ways to raise money in a time when financial resources for education are stagnant and enrollment declining. A number of districts have turned to advertising on their websites, students’ lockers and at extracurricular events as a way to raise extra money.

Voter approval of a renewal and increase of an operational levy in November made the West St. Paul district’s fiscal position less precarious, Spurr said. The measure raises an additional $1.8 million for schools for the next decade.

“We started looking at it when we were struggling a couple years ago with the budget and we had some painful looking cuts to make,” Spurr said. “I still think there is a fair bit of concern about the downsides of advertising. We are in a better place financially with the passage of the referendum and other cost cutting.”

Not that advertising would solve any districts’ financial problems.

Schools have long used ads to offset the costs of things such as programs at after-school events and yearbooks. Newer commercial ventures are more lucrative, but far from a windfall.

Tony Taschner, spokesman for Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan schools, the state’s fourth-largest district, said advertising on the district website and on an LED screen during sporting events has brought in a little more than $50,000 in revenue this year.

Board members also agreed to explore advertising as an alternative funding source while coping with funding woes, Taschner said. School leaders have been cautious about how to use ads and how much revenue they will bring in.

“You’re not going to solve any school’s funding issue with advertising. I think it can show the residents of a community that you are looking for different revenue sources,” he said. “Once you cross the threshold of the school and go inside the building, that’s when I think people are going to react.”

Taschner has received no negative reactions from parents regarding the newer advertising the Rosemount district has allowed. The district has no plans to pursue advertising inside school buildings, he said.

Worries about parents’ perceptions were part of the reason Spurr of the West St. Paul district said he remains hesitant about more advertising, even outside the school building. The district would need to overhaul its policy to move ahead with other advertising programs.

“Speaking for myself, from the very beginning, on a gut level, I didn’t like it,” Spurr said. “We all are bombarded with advertising every day. Some people feel a little queasy about advertising at the school.”

Christopher Magan can be reached at 651-228-5557. Follow him at twitter.com/cmaganPiPress. Read our blog Ahead of the Class at blogs.TwinCities.com/education.

http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_20950100/west-st-paul-schools-continue-cautious-approach-advertising