The Los Angeles school board (http://www.lausd.net) has long considered corporate sponsorship as a viable way to fund school programs such as art, athletics and other extra curricula subjects that until now were considered by some not to be essential to the well-rounded education of students. Now, in its effort to bring more money to the schools, the Board decided to move forward on awarding corporate sponsors the opportunity to advertise on school property. The external companies would be in partnership with the school district. Steve Lopez’s Los Angeles Times article (http://www.latimes.com discusses many concerns about the partnership http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/lanow/2010/12/steve-lopez-chevron-auditorium-haliburton-high-corporate-sponsors-for-la-schools-is-bad-idea.html).
What if, as in Tallahassee, Florida (http://vodpod.com/watch/1353116-florida-considers-4-day-school-week), Los Angeles public school academic sessions were held four days instead of five. Picture LAUSD on a four-day schedule with the fifth day devoted to all the cultural enrichment programs that corporate sponsorship is supposed to help revive or save. From the early morning until the last recess of the fifth day, students interested in music would be immersed in music culture. Students with an interest in illustration, computer animation, fine arts merchandising, fashion or sports would have the opportunity to be exposed to a full day of practice and of learning technical skills during the fifth day. Teachers and many volunteers would be glad to interact with students at this self-expressive level because many of them are involved in similar interests at work and outside of work. The art of playing sports is not only self-expressive but also a major team spirit building vehicle. The fifth day at school also would give students a chance to pursue areas of interest to help them make decisions about whether to seek a professional career in a particular non-academic subject or activity. So, not only would the corporate world be involved (by funding the fifth day), but the community and its rich pool of professionals and volunteers (many of whom have strong artistic backgrounds) would together provide a hefty partnership portion of “community involvement” that is sorely needed in education today. Cost savings may or may not be reflected in energy and available local cash, as in the four day Florida schools. In Los Angeles, though, it would very likely be overwhelmingly reflected in a decrease in truancy and the dropout rate, resulting in the greatest savings overall – return on investment in the City’s future generations.
Corporate sponsorship sounds like a good plan, if managed ethically and is not merely “passed by legal” in the usual way, i.e., numerous change orders that eventually result in much less funding directly to schools. Watch closely, now. We need to be sure the $18 million sponsored by companies such as Adidas http://www.adidas.com or Nike http://www.nike.com does not become $10 million (plus up to 15% commission) and a year of free shoes for school Board members.