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June 20, 2012 at 7:19 PM

Advertising at Seattle school athletic fields approved

The Seattle School Board tonight approved a contentious proposal to allow commercial advertising on some school athletic fields, scoreboards and calendars.

The unanimous vote came after passage of two amendments — one prohibiting advertising of unhealthy foods, and one limiting advertising to only property surrounding high schools.

It also came after about a dozen speeches of opposition from parents concerned about the amount of marketing children are exposed to.

Most of the money will eventually be earmarked for high-school student governments. Those groups, which support athletic teams, clubs and other expenses, saw revenues plummet after the board voted in 2004 to ban advertising and junk food in vending machines. The School Board promised to repay the money, but never did.

Earlier this year, the board considered relaxing the school district’s ban on junk food in vending machines as a way to increase revenue. But board members settled on advertising as a better path forward.

School Board members called the proposal a modest idea that will greatly benefit students.

“This will do much more good than harm,” Vice President Kay Smith-Blum said.

Before the vote, several parents and teachers said the School Board should come up with a new way to fund the student governments.

“Advertising sales remain the wrong solution to the problem,” said Matt King, who has a sophomore attending Nathan Hale High School. “We parents entrust our children’s education only to you. … We ask you not to sell off even a sliver of your influence.”

Robert Femiano, a 2nd-grade teacher at Sanislo Elementary, called advertising that reaches children “subliminal coercion” that works against the school district’s mission.

“Just say no,” he said.

School Board members are expected later tonight to get their first look at the district staff’s proposed nearly $600 million budget for next school year.

Comments | More in Education | Topics: advertising, Michael DeBell, Seattle Public Schools

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