The National Education Policy Center (NEPC) has published a March 2014 report titled Schoolhouse Commercialism Leaves Policymakers Behind, which claims that the education system and its policymakers continue “to grant corporate marketers ‘widespread access to students’… through mechanisms that range from delivering marketing messages through appropriated school space and property to a variety of other strategies.”
Authored by University of Colorado researchers, the 16th annual report seeks to map “the legislative landscape relative to school commercialism,” relying on legislative and non-legislative databases, interviews, media reports, and other sources to gather information on new forms of school marketing, the reactions of policymakers to school marketing arrangements, and the position of education policy organizations toward these arrangements.
In particular, the report finds that little state or federal legislation related to school marketing was passed in 2012 or 2013. In previous years, notes the report, legislators have responded to school marketing by passing bills that (i) “permit any or all marketing activities,” (ii) “prohibit and/or restrict outright all or certain types of marketing activity,” (iii) “delegate to some other entity, such as a school board, the authority to determine which marketing activities, if any, will be permitted,” and (iv) “require that school boards engage in specific processes for considering a marketing activity before it can be approved or implemented.” But even as interest in curbing marketing activities has seemingly waned among lawmakers and educators alike, outside advocacy groups have reportedly increased their focus on school commercialism – “particularly where nutrition and personal privacy are concerned.”
The report ultimately argues, however, that this outside interest has done little to curtail advertising in schools because corporate-educator partner- ships are widely viewed as beneficial from a funding standpoint. To this end, NEPC maintains that any financial benefit of school commercialism must be weighed against its alleged effect on student health and educational well-being. As the authors thus conclude, “Given the threats that marketing poses to the health and well-being of students and to the integrity of schools’ educational programs, we call upon policymakers to ban commercializing activities in schools outright unless an independent, disinterested, publically funded, entity certifies that a proposed commercializing activity will cause no harm to children or otherwise undermine the quality of their education.”