Struggling schools put ads on websites

No-cost web design in exchange for ad revenue - a good deal for schools?
Written by ZDNET Editors, Contributor

In an effort to save money on upgrading school websites, eSchool News reports, some schools are allowing corporate advertising on their sites.

Based on the school yearbook model, which allows advertising to support printing costs, Rhode Island's East Greenwich Public School district has hired EdTech Networks Inc. to expand the capabilities of their school websites. Under the EdNets program, the company builds a custom website, while the school pays no up-front costs. EdTech gets paid from advertising placed on the site.

"The piece of the deal that was most attractive for us was having an opportunity to have our web site looking current and professional," said Superintendent Charlie Meyers.

Despite being approved by the school board, EdNets has drawn its share of controversy, however.

"Some things just shouldn't be for sale, and that includes schools," said Gary Ruskin, director of Washington, D.C.-based Commercial Alert, a nonprofit group opposed to corporate advertising in schools. "What kind of messages does something like this send to the kids?" questioned Ruskin.

Ruskin warned the cost of advertisements could be higher than anticipated. If the ads are repellant to voters they might not vote in favor of supportive tax measures, bonds, and other critical spending initiatives.

Meyers defended the program, saying that EdNets program isn't about hawking products to students; it's about reaching out to members of the local community. Most states, including Rhode Island, have laws prohibiting school property as a vehicle for marketing to children. The ads are intended to target an outsiders, meaning parents, who use the site.

"We really haven't seen very much opposition at all," said Meyers.
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