National Survey Reveals Trend of Commercialism and Fundraising Schemes in Canadian Schools

A disturbing trend of commercial activities and a reliance on alternative funding sources are taking place in Canadian schools. These are the preliminary findings of a national survey of 3,100 publicly funded schools conducted over the 2004-05 school year by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF), the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement (FSE is a member of the Quebec-based Centrale des syndicats du Québec). The findings were released today at CTF’s Annual General Meeting currently taking place in Saskatoon.

The survey–the first of its kind and scope ever conducted in Canada–examines the nature and extent of commercial activities in Canadian schools and the degree to which public funding is being replaced or supplemented by alternative funding sources, including school fundraising. It focuses on the following categories: advertising; partnerships & sponsorships; corporate-sponsored educational materials; fundraising and user fees. The full report with regional breakdowns will be available in the fall.

“The issues of commercialism and privatization and the trend to institutionalize fundraising as a revenue source for schools and boards have been growing concerns for teacher organizations,” says CTF President Terry Price. “While there is much anecdotal information, this survey now provides us with hard data to support our call for accessible, equitable and fully funded public schools for all children and youth.”

The survey results demonstrate the degree to which schools are increasingly dependent on private sources of revenue at a time when public funding is not sufficient enough to ensure universality of access to educational programs, facilities and activities. Teacher and parent groups have expressed concern that fundraising initiatives make it easier for provincial/territorial governments to avoid their responsibilities to adequately fund public schools.

“While affluent communities are able to raise thousands of dollars relatively quickly through direct appeal campaigns, schools in socio-economically disadvantaged communities are not as fortunate. There is a significant risk that these activities are contributing to a two-tiered education system – – affluent versus less affluent communities, urban versus rural regions – – where cultural and language diversities and realities are not adequately recognized or respected,” explains Ms. Price.

Preliminary findings:
• The national average of money raised by schools is $15,700;
• 28% of elementary schools and 54% of secondary schools report the presence of advertising in or on the school – the lowest incidence of advertising is in French schools in Quebec;
• Coke and Pepsi are the most prominent corporations in Canadian schools. Advertising venues include scoreboards, clocks, beverage machines, banners, school signs and gym equipment. Exclusive marketing agreements with these soft drink giants are more common in secondary (56%) than elementary schools (19%);
• 30% of schools report having an incentive program to encourage students, teachers, parents and others in the school community to purchase or use a specific company’s products or services. Cash, school materials or equipment are awarded to schools in proportion to the value of store receipts, product labels or coupons collected;
• 64% of elementary schools report promoting Scholastic educational materials;
• 67% of all schools charge user fees for school trips;
• 60% of elementary schools and 49% of all schools fundraise for library books;
• 68% of secondary schools fundraise for athletic programs.

“Restoring our public education systems to health by fully funding them from taxpayer revenues should be the national priority and governments at all levels must be held accountable to that end. It is the best investment any society can make,” concludes Ms. Price.