Home > Uncategorized > Sioux City Iowa School Board Considers Offering Donors Naming Rights

Sioux City Iowa School Board Considers Offering Donors Naming Rights

April 2, 2018

An article that appeared in the Sioux City Journal on April Fools Day, reported that the school board in that community is contemplating a change in policy that would “…allow major donors to attach their names to gymnasiums, auditoriums or other areas of a school building.” I understand the need for schools to engage in business partnership activities and also realize how difficult it is to do any renovations when state support is scarce to non-existent, but the naming rights issue is not only a local political quagmire, it had a dis-equalizing impact and reinforces the notion that school funding should be based on user fees and not community support based on taxes.

The local political quagmire of naming should be obvious to a school board. What if an arguably disreputable firm—  say a major polluter or a corporation that recently laid off hundreds of workers— wants to improve its standing in the community by donating to the area of a school building? The scene from the Bad News Bears where Walter Matthau’s charges show up with uniforms emblazoned with “Chico’s Bail Bonds” comes to mind. Or what if an alt-right or LBGTQ group want to make a major donation?

As noted in an earlier post on the Abington PA school district, the use of donations from private residents, alumni, or local businesses almost invariably has a dis-equalizing impact. Affluent districts have a larger donor base than districts serving children raised in poverty, and districts with a solid tax base based on having businesses also have a larger donor base for business partners than rural districts with no businesses whatsoever.

Finally, the whole notion that schools should turn to individual donors or local businesses to get funding is contrary to the fundamental idea behind public education. Public schools are a common good that should be supported by everyone in the community— not just those with children in school. They should, therefore, be funded by taxes with as broad a base as possible. When states can shirk their responsibility for helping students by encouraging “partnerships”, they are, in turn, fostering the idea that schools should be funded based on user fees… a concept that necessarily sets public schools on the path for vouchers.

Here’s hoping wisdom and common sense prevail in Souix City when the debate on this issue continues.

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