February 15, 2001

Legislative Activity

Date: February 15, 2001

To: AAF Members

From: Clark Rector, Jr., Vice President-State Government Affairs

Re: Maryland Legislation - Commercialism in Schools

Legislation has been introduced in the Maryland Senate that would severely curtail the ability of local school districts to contract with commercial entities to provide services and goods to local schools. The bill seems to be based on a misguided notion that students are a "captive audience" being bombarded by "pervasive advertising in school."

Senate Bill 435 would eliminate much of the discretion that Maryland school boards have to contract with commercial entities, both local and national. Some specific provisions of the bill would prohibit

  • the purchase of curriculum materials that contain brand names or logos that are irrelevant to the lesson;
  • the use of identifiable brand names or logos in instruction, unless their use is "necessary to the instruction;"
  • commercial advertisements on the exterior or interior of school buses owned or used by the county.

The advertising industry is not suggesting that any of the practices that would be banned by the legislation should be required, but local officials are fully capable of determining what level of commercial involvement is appropriate for their schools.

A blanket ban on the use of brand names would eliminate a teacher's ability to incorporate real world examples into lessons plans, since those examples would not be "necessary to the instruction." A literal reading of the language would eliminate photographs that included brand logos (as for example on phone booths, automobiles or retail establishments).

Advertising and other commercial involvement should not be exploitative or children. Local officials should be free to work with their commercial partners to determine the appropriate level of participation.

An appropriate level of commercial involvement can be a much-needed source of revenue for many cash-strapped schools. This legislation would virtually eliminate that option for schools.

The legislation is sponsored by Senators Pinsky, Blount, Conway, Dyson, Frosh, Harris, Hollinger, Kelley, Sfikas and Van Hollen. We urge you to contact Maryland lawmakers and ask them to oppose Senate Bill 435.