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Advertising on high school IDs off table, for now

Rob Chaney

The Missoulian

September 2, 2008

The quick answer is no: There will not be advertising on the back of Missoula high school student identification cards.

That idea was dropped Wednesday almost as soon as it was broached at the Missoula County Public Schools' Personnel, Negotiations and Policy Committee. But the potential of raising education money through advertising remains interesting to school district trustees.

“We're not saying no, never,” committee chairman and Trustee Scott Bixler said. “But this is such an important component of our schools, we want to make sure we do it right. But for the time being, the idea of advertising on the IDs is off the table.”
Big Sky High School officials had brought the idea to the school board after being approached by a local insurance broker to put a small ad on the back of the student identification cards. Before the conversation could get much further, MCPS attorney Bea Kaleva pointed out the deal wouldn't mesh with the school district's advertising policy.

In particular, ID cards didn't clearly fall into either school district property, publications or broadcast, as allowed by the policy, Kaleva said. It also refers mainly to athletic or activity programs as places to use the money.

That conflicts with the new MCPS goal of directing all effort at improving student achievement. But it prompted the trustees to take another look at their advertising policy to better craft it for future proposals.

“(Advertising) is something that's going to generate much-needed revenue for our schools,” Board Chairwoman Toni Rehbein told the committee. “But there's a difference in having an ad on an ID card or on the back of a fence in a ballfield. I'm just not comfortable with it.”

“I'm very conflicted about this,” added Bixler. “I'm a strong advocate of advertising. We need to do that. And if we're going to ban advertising in schools, we've got to go to school uniforms. Advertising is already in our schools - brought in by the students themselves.”

He referred to all the logos, slogans and other branding on students' clothing, backpacks, shoes and other possessions. But he said when the school administration gets involved in a business deal with an advertiser, it must be very clear about what's allowable and where the money goes. That's not clear in the current policy.

MCPS Superintendent Alex Apostle said he wanted the rules clarified, and quickly.

“If it's not clear what direction we're going. We're going to have these questions come up all the time,” he told the committee. “And if it takes a lot of time dealing with these issues, it's off-center for what we're doing with student achievement.”

Missoula Education Association President Jack Sturgis said the teachers union was open to the idea of more school advertising, but that any money earned should be spent as close to student needs as possible.

Apostle proposed drafting some minor changes that would strengthen the policy without an in-depth rewrite. Those changes should come before the trustees in the next few months.





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