In times of tight budgets, many school districts have turned to agreements with businesses in order to find an alternative source for school funds. The most common of these arrangements are exclusivity arrangements with corporations to sell or promote products, such as food vending machines, and space agreements in which school districts sell or lease space on school property, ranging from scoreboards and buses to computer screens.

According to a survey of school business officials in Pennsylvania and New York, published by the magazine School Business Affairs, these business arrangements may not be worth the effort of school districts. According to Brian Brent, a professor at the University of Rochester who conducted the study, the amount of money raised, and its impact on local tax revenues, was negligible. When coupled with the amount of time required of school personnel to monitor these business arrangements, districts were left with little, if any, impact on their budgets.

“Every dollar is important, but every dollar may not be worthwhile,” said Brent. He viewed the study results as a cautionary tale that the efforts to raise additional revenues through business arrangements might not be worth the potential down side. One such down side is the treating of school children as “captive audiences” to commercial messages, which may expose students to the promotion of unhealthy products. As school districts search for much needed funds, they should carefully evaluate both the benefits and costs of these commercial agreements.