NEPC Review: Commercial Cash: How NY Schools Can Raise Extra Money Without Raising Taxes (Urban Institute, September 2019)
Commercial Cash: How NY Schools Can Raise Extra Money Without Raising Taxes gets it half right. This issue brief makes the persuasive legal case that current policy and legal guidance from New York state education officials severely restricts the ability of school districts to allow any form of commercial advertising, making it difficult to raise revenues—without raising taxes—from advertising, sponsorships, and naming rights deals. The brief calls on lawmakers to “free school districts from the current regulatory quagmire by eliminating legal barriers and permitting local decision-making.” But that argument addresses only the revenue half of the equation. The other half, which the brief largely ignores, involves the significant costs of commercial advertising in schools. Those costs include the potential psychological harms stemming from corporate advertising; health-related harms that might flow from promoting foods and drinks with little nutritional value; educational harms coming from the schools’ and educators’ implicit endorsement of commercial culture and even the products themselves; and the emerging harm to privacy presented by digital data collection and targeted digital marketing.