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The Schools' Corporate Sell-Out 

America already has the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the FedEx Orange Bowl and the Allstate Sugar Bowl - not to mention the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl,

America already has the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the FedEx Orange Bowl and the Allstate Sugar Bowl - not to mention the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl, the AT&T Cotton Bowl and the Chick-fil-A (formerly Peach) Bowl. So why shouldn't Bend-LaPine schools let businesses (for a price, of course) attach their names to athletic fields and other facilities?

Weird as it sounds, the school board actually is kicking that idea around.

What started the discussion was a claim by Professional Air, a charter and flight instruction service that operates out of the Bend Airport, that the new Summit High synthetic turf athletic field should bear its name because it helped pay for it.

Apparently a brochure distributed by a group raising money for the $485,000 field indicated that "field naming options" would be available for donors who gave $50,000 or more. The board has appointed a three-person subcommittee to re-examine the district's policy on naming schools and school facilities.

Some school board members, including Chairman Nori Juba, think selling naming rights to corporations could be a neat way of raising money. "I think it's in the best interest of our kids to get the resources to benefit them and not to stand on philosophical principles," Juba said.

Others, such as Vice Chairman Tom Wilson, aren't cool with it. "I think it sends the wrong message," he said. "I just don't think public schools and public buildings and public facilities are the place to start putting corporation names."

We think that if the board decides to sell naming rights it might as well go the whole nine yards. If we can have a Professional Air Stadium at Summit, why not a Brooks Resources Stadium at Mountain View? Or a Deschutes Brewery Auditorium at Bend High? Or a Bank of the Cascades Library at Jewell Elementary School?

What the hell, let's go all the way and make Superintendent Ron Wilkinson wear a suit covered with corporate logo patches like a NASCAR driver.

Okay, we're being silly. But the whole idea of selling corporate sponsorships for public school facilities is silly. And we agree with Wilson that it sends the wrong message - to the public, the taxpayers and the kids.

Paying NASCAR drivers, NFL players and tennis pros to wear corporate logos is different - they're professionals. Naming college bowl games after corporations is different - the name doesn't imply the colleges that play in the bowl are supported by the corporation.

Branding school facilities with corporation names is another story. It could create the impression that public schools are the creatures of corporate sponsors. It might even make faculty members and staff reluctant to say anything that might be seen as critical of some business benefactor, or a potential one.

There are times when it's important to take a stand on philosophical principles. Private business interests and public schools should maintain an arm's-length relationship, but selling naming rights to corporations would put them in bed together. Instead of being kicked around, this idea needs to be BOOTed out.

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