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Texas Public Schools Selling Ad Space To Deal With Budget Crisis

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The line between the public and private sectors just keeps getting fuzzier.

As a way to bring in some much-needed cash, a growing number of public schools in northern Texas are covering their buses and buildings with advertisements, according to a recent report in The Dallas Morning News. The Texas state legislature cut $5.4 billion in education funding and grants last year. To make up for the lost cash, schools in at least a dozen districts are selling ad space to local or national businesses.

What's happening in Texas isn't unique. Lawmakers are slashing state and local budgets across America -- partly because high unemployment and addled housing market are keeping tax revenues below needed levels -- and more and more schools are striking deals with marketers in order to keep the lights on.

In this case, Texas ads are popping up in newsletters, in stadiums and on the sides of buses. And at least one district is looking into the possibility of ads on school roofs, the DMN reports. Critics say the ads could undermine the critical thinking skills meant to be developed at school.

At least a dozen states either allow ads on school buses or are weighing the idea. Some schools in Colorado are running ads at the bottom of students' report cards, while a town in Minnesota has sold ad space across a percentage of its lockers, according to Time.

Indeed, as early as 2009, shortly after the economic downturn hit, a high school teacher in Idaho reached a deal with a local pizzeria: the restaurant paid for 10,000 sheets of paper for classroom use, and got to place an ad on each and every one, The New York Times then reported.

Some school are taking a careful approach to the selling of ad space. In one Philadelphia-area district, schools are only running ads that relate to health, education and safety, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer -- though under those guidelines, there's still room to advertise Post-It Notes and Dick's Sporting Goods, the Inquirer reports.

The proliferation of ads in public schools is just another way in which the state and municipal budget crises of recent years have forced towns to change the way they provide basic services. Some police departments have stopped responding to calls for less severe crimes, and many towns have begun shutting down or tearing out streetlights in a bid to reduce power costs.

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