For Immediate Release

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Public Citizen to Philadelphia City Council: Commercial Advertising in Schools Undermines Education

Commercialism in Schools Poses Threat to Children’s Education and Development, Generates Insignificant Revenue

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. - The Philadelphia City Council should reject a proposal to allow advertising on Philadelphia school property and in schools, Public Citizen argued in testimony submitted to the City Council Committee on Rules for a hearing today.

“Commercial advertising undermines the fundamental mission of schools to empower children to think independently and develop problem solving skills,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Children are already surrounded by near-constant advertising that promotes materialism. But the ubiquity of commercialism is not a reason for allowing school advertising – it is a reason why children need a sanctuary where they can focus on learning,” he added.

School advertising programs also fail to satisfy their purpose of generating significant revenue, Public Citizen argues. Public Citizen’s research shows that school advertising programs nationwide consistently provide less than half of one percent of school revenues, and often far less. Our 2012 survey of the nation’s 25 largest school districts, 10 of which had or were considering in-school advertising programs, found that none reported raising more than .03 percent of the school system’s overall budget.

Last month, Public Citizen sent a letter to Council President Darrell L. Clarke and Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, the bill’s sponsors, urging them to reconsider their sponsorship of the bill. The letter was co-signed by the Philadelphia-based organization Youth United for Change, and by the national organizations Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and Center for a New American Dream. The groups expressed concerns about school advertising’s effects on child and adolescent development.

The Philadelphia City Council bill includes few provisions moderating the advertising that will be permitted on school property. It leaves open the possibility for advertising that is particularly inappropriate or harmful to children, including junk foods and violent media. The City of Philadelphia risks First Amendment challenges if it later places restrictions on the types of advertising permitted in schools, according to research. By permitting advertising on school property, the school system will appear to endorse the products and services advertised.

Reducing the negligible revenues from school advertising programs still further are high administrative costs. Public Citizen’s research shows that private agencies acting as middlemen between school districts and advertisers take anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of the already insignificant revenues generated by advertising.

Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C., with more than 300,000 members and supporters. To learn more about Public Citizen’s project to keep commercial advertising out of schools, visit Nearly 15,500 people nationwide have signed a Public Citizen petition opposing commercialism in schools.


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Public Citizen is a national, nonprofit consumer advocacy organization founded in 1971 to represent consumer interests in Congress, the executive branch and the courts.

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