Call for Lawmakers to Loosen School Advertising Restrictions Overlooks Real Costs to Students

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Key New NEPC Review Takeaway: Brief ignores the potential harms of in-school advertising and provides little useful guidance for officials considering a substantive reworking of regulations.

The Empire Center recently released a brief making the persuasive legal case that current policy and legal guidance from state education officials in New York severely restricts the ability of school districts to allow any form of commercial advertising. Because of this, the brief argues, it is more difficult than it should be for these districts to raise revenues from advertising, sponsorships, and naming rights deals.

Professor William S. Koski of Stanford Law School reviewed Commercial Cash: How NY Schools Can Raise Extra Money Without Raising Taxes, and found that while the brief provides a solid analysis of the legal and regulatory restrictions on commercial activities in schools, it addresses only the revenue half of the equation and leaves out crucial information.

The unexplored half, Professor Koski explains, includes the significant costs of commercial advertising in schools, including the potential psychological, health-related, educational, and privacy harms stemming from corporate advertising and targeted digital marketing. The brief ignores substantial scholarly and empirical literature that has detailed the harms of advertising and media messaging on children generally and the harms from advertising in schools specifically.

Beyond these potential harms, the brief may overstate the economic benefits of these deals because it does not consider either the costs of negotiating and administering these contracts or the potential of diminished donor and taxpayer support.

While the brief’s call for the New York legislature to revisit and revise policy governing advertising in schools is timely and appropriate, Professor Koski concludes that it provides little useful guidance for officials considering a substantive reworking of regulations.

Find the review, by William S. Koski, the Eric and Nancy Wright Professor in Clinical Education at Stanford Law School, at:
http://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/commercialism

Find Commercial Cash: How NY Schools Can Raise Extra Money Without Raising Taxes, written by Peter Murphy and published by Empire Center, at:
https://www.empirecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/Commercial-Cash-Final.pdf

NEPC Reviews (http://thinktankreview.org) provide the public, policymakers, and the press with timely, academically sound reviews of selected publications. NEPC Reviews are made possible in part by support provided by the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice: http://www.greatlakescenter.org

The National Education Policy Center (NEPC), a university research center housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education, produces and disseminates high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. Visit us at: https://nepc.colorado.edu

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William J. Mathis

William S. Koski
Stanford University
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