By BRANDON HOWELL
Capital News Service
LANSING – Schools across the state, including some in St. Joseph County, are looking into selling advertising opportunities to make up for less state funding.
In Three Rivers, the district has advertising deals with local insurance companies and is considering ads on its website.
And in Sturgis, similar measures are being discussed.
Three Rivers Community Schools Superintendent Roger Rathburn said his district has put advertisements for two insurance companies – MEEMIC and State Farm – into employee paycheck envelopes. He said it’s a mutually beneficial process.
“We’ll do an envelope stuffing for about $100,” he said. The companies “will bring about 400 copies of the ad, or however many they want, so they get to send 400 ads out for $100, which is much cheaper than paying for stamps.”
Rathburn said the revenue might not sound like much but that it can add up.
“We have 26 payrolls a year,” he said. “If we do that 26 times, that’s $2,600 that might help prevent a cut to the elementary field trip budget.”
Three Rivers is also considering an advertisement banner for the top of its website. Rathburn said the discussion is only preliminary thus far.
Rathburn said he got the idea from his time as president of the Three Rivers Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We sold ads in a little box and a banner on the chamber’s website,” he said. “Having gone through the process there and seeing how easy it is got me thinking we could do that at the school.”
Rathburn said website ad revenue is determined by the number of visits the page gets.
“People go to the website for athletic schedules and different things,” he said. “There’s a lot on the site.”
Sturgis Public Schools Superintendent Robert Olsen said district administrators have discussed new ad revenue possibilities as well.
“We’ve talked about advertising on our website and at our ball fields,” he said. “Some schools even put advertising on buses.”
Olsen said he has yet to estimate revenue from ads.
“Most certainly anything would be under consideration,” he said. “Obviously, it’d have to be something that was tasteful, something we’re comfortable with promoting and products we’re comfortable promoting.”
Michigan Education Association (MEA) public information officer Kerry Birmingham said advertising in schools is becoming more popular throughout the state.
“It’s something a lot of schools are looking at,” she said. “It’s unfortunate that school districts are having to do this because of inadequate funding.”
Birmingham cited eight Oakland County school districts that signed an advertising deal in April with Alternative Revenue Development, a Bloomfield Hills business that helps schools find new sources of income.
Districts in Troy, Bloomfield Hills, Pontiac, Huron Valley, Brandon, Oak Park, Waterford and Hazel Park agreed to put ads on signs at sports facilities and other large gathering areas beginning in August. The ads will be for restaurants, universities and banks, among other clients.
Alternative Revenue Development estimates that the advertising will generate $100,000 in revenue for each high school in its first year and more in subsequent years.
The MEA has no official stance on the advertising issue, but Birmingham said the state’s largest union of public school employees has concerns.
“You have to be very careful,” she said. “Students are very easily influenced at that age, so you don’t want advertising everywhere. But it’s something a lot of places are looking at as a pure economic necessity at this point.”
© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.