Public schools are asking businesses and churches for money in exchange for marketing opportunities, reports the Wall Street Journal. In Lakeland, Florida, Combee Elementary School saw its supplies budget cut by a third this year. Then the First Baptist Church at the Mall adopted the school, donating $5,000 of supplies. The church now “caters spaghetti dinners at evening school events, buys sneakers for poor students, and sends in math and English tutors.”
The principal is delighted. So are church pastors. “We have inroads into public schools that we had not had before,” says Pastor Dave McClamma. “By befriending the students, we have the opportunity to visit homes to talk to parents about Jesus Christ.”
Near Combee in Florida’s Polk County, “Frostproof Elementary asks local businesses to sponsor classrooms, in return for promotion on the school marquee,” reports the Journal. Rogers & Walker Gun Shop made the marquee for donating $300 to two classes.
In the past, schools used private donations for extras. Now schools are seeking help with basic supplies.
Bake sales no longer cut it. Manatee County, Fla., just received a $20,000 check from a local cucumber grower, Falkner Farms, which wants to sponsor and name an elementary-school engineering program. District officials are reviewing the deal as they continue to solicit sponsors for other courses.
The San Diego Unified School District is seriously considering opening its middle- and high-school cafeterias and gyms to corporate advertising, a move that could bring in $30,000 to $50,000 a year per school, says Bernie Rhinerson, chief district relations officer.
North of San Diego, dentist John Coleman offers free teeth-whitening for patients who donate $150 to a magnet school near his office. The school sends home fliers promoting the deal. “The dentist says he’s raised $5,000 for school science programs while bringing in more than enough new patients to make it worth his while.”
At Combee, the Baptists’ help “was like a prayer answered,” said Principal Steve Comparato.
While Combee gained resources, the church gained access to families. At Christmas, the school connected the church with parents who said they wouldn’t mind being visited at home by First Baptist. The church brought gifts, food and the gospel. Of about 30 families visited over two weekends in December, 13 “came to the Lord,” says Mr. McClamma, a 58-year-old motorcycle buff who drives a black sports-utility vehicle with the bumper sticker “Christ First.”
The principal says he’d take help from any denomination, but hopes on a personal level that students will “know Jesus” and be saved. The superintendent says he can hope for whatever he wants as long as students don’t have to be Baptists to get colored pencils and paper.