Proposal would allow facilities to be named after big donors, and would give corporate advertising access to classrooms



By Tim Redmond

JUNE 12, 2015 – The San Francisco School Board is considering changing its nationally acclaimed policy on commercial-free schools and allowing big corporations access to students — and permitting school facilities to carry the logos and names of major donors.

Think Mark Zuckerberg Auditorium and Ron Conway High School.

The changes were on the agenda for the June 9 meeting, but discussion was tabled at the last minute, I’m told, after Board Member Jill Wynns informed the superintendent that she vehemently opposed the plan.

The current rules, which have been copied by districts all over the country, ban most forms of commercial advertising and the use of corporate logos on school facilities.

Under the resolution, the district would affirm that “partnerships, investments, and endorsements by “individuals, private businesses, and organizations deserve recognition for their contribution and support to SF Schools” and “will allow recognition of a donor via naming of a school building or other similar recognition within SFUSD facilities.”

There’s more: The proposal would “allow the use of individual, corporate, or business logos and names on SFUSD  facilities or properties for the purposes of recognition of donations or sponsorship.”

So Apple could plaster its logos all over the district in exchange for a few computers.

More: The plan would “allow district personnel to notify students and families of opportunities by private or for-profit companies that support our districts mission.” That means direct advertising support for corporations in exchange for money. It means teachers could be told to promote the latest I-Pad or the use of Twitter.

It’s a huge, huge step away from the way district policy has handled advertising and commercialism for years.

The measure seeks to justify the increased featly to the rich and big corporations by saying that the schools are underfunded and the district needs the money.

Which is infuriating to anyone who has followed tax policy in the nation and the state in the past 40 years.

There’s a reason the schools are underfunded: Prop. 13 gave commercial property owners and corporations a huge tax break. The tax cuts for the rich under Reagan and Bush have allowed people like Conway, Zuckerberg, and other billionaires to amass huge fortunes without paying anything close to their fair share of taxes.

And now these wealthy royalty want to hand the peasants a few dollars, in exchange for all of us genuflecting, naming our schools after them, and letting them sell their products to kids.

The district’s public-relations office didn’t respond to my questions about whethetr the superintendent supports this.

None of the board members seem interested in talking about this, although Sandra Fewer left me a message saying she had been “briefed on it by Hydra [Mendoza],” who is both a School Board member and the mayor’s education advisor. The agenda shows Mendoza and Shamann Walton as sponsors.

Which means there’s probably a connection between this concept of selling off school facilities and names and Mayor Lee, who is a fan of “public-private partnerships” and spends a lot of time courting the tech industry.

Margaret Brodkin, a longtime public-schools advocate, told me that the proposal is “outrageous. The district would take a measure designed to protect our kids from commercialism and twist it into the opposite of that.

“It’s a reflection of what’s going on in the country, where we are starving the public sector and giving our institutions over to private corporations.”

  • Theleona

    Lee’s courting everything with money – not just hi-tech. He is fiscally insane!

    • Jon Kozone

      Exactly. When Lee came into office he was handed a $380 million deficit and he completely squandered it.

      Now we have a $20 million surplus and departments are seeing their funding increased for the first time in years.

      Absolute fiscal insanity!

      • Theleona

        And thousands of people are suffering from eviction, gentrification and displacement – we have the worst housing crisis in the nation, income inequality equal to third world countries, close to 3000 homeless children in public schools and 10,000 homeless people on the streets. Yes this is the result of fiscal insanity, the result of catering to the wealthy at the expense of everyone else – a madman that wants to build, build build until every billionaire in and outside this country can count on a cute gutted Victorian and his name on a public building in what used to be San Francisco. Whatever deficit we did or did not have was due to the recession. Other cities have recovered in a normal manner. To cause so many people to suffer due to failed policies which are well documented is the result of the this insanity. Money is only a medium of exchange and Lee exchanged the superficial garnering of funds in a depraved manner for the suffering of others who had not volunteered to make this sacrifice in order to make him look good.

        • zzz

          What policies do you think would stem things?

        • Almondy

          Envy does not become you

  • DavidinSF

    Ron Conway High, why not. As he has the majority of control in SF, how about a district next I never like the name Financial District, Conway’s Domain sounds better.

    • jhayes362

      I’d suggest something more glorious, like one of the sewage treatment plants.

  • VivaShotwell

    Seriously? Is this a joke?

    No concern about sub-par academic performance? Exasperated parents who feel alienated from an indifferent school board? Failing schools? An insane student assignment system that prevents kids from going to the schools in their neighborhoods? (There was a failed vote on that this week, of course.)

    48Hills finally looks at the SFUSD and the big issue Tim finds is a theoretical change in naming policy? Get a clue. If Ron Conway can get my kids a better public school education than what they are getting now, I am glad to send them to a school with his name on it.

    Progressives enjoy the irrelevance they deserve.

    • GarySFBCN

      Apparently, unlike you regressives, progressives can multi-task. I am concerned about failing schools AND the commercialization of schools.

      Now please share with us what you have done to make schools better in San Francisco.

      But I’m guessing you’re really here to troll, not to engage in thoughtful discussion.

      • Almondy

        But what if the commercialization improved the quality of education because of the extra funds?

        Which then would you choose? That’s the real issue here.

        It’s a similar dilemma to that about building new market-rate homes. You may hate them (for some strange reason) but if we stop, then we lose all the developer fees that build most of the affordable homes in the city.

        Progressives seem to think they can have their cake and eat it too. But the real world doesn’t work like that.

        • GarySFBCN

          Instead of ‘selling’ the school’s name, companies should be taxed at adequate rates to pay for good schools, etc.

        • EssEffOh

          TAX THE RICH. That way you improve the quality of education without giving corporations even more power over our lives than they already have.

          • Almondy

            The problem with that is obvious. The rich move their wealth and themselves to Switzerland and you end up having to tax the poor instead.

            Politics is much tougher than a dumb slogan

          • Greg

            In Switzerland, they tax the rich.

          • Almondy

            Everywhere but a few tax havens taxes the rich. You can ultimately only tax those who can afford it.

            But when “tax the rich” gets used as an empty mindless slogan, as EssEffOn uses it above, as if it were some kind of magic solution to any problem, then it needs to be called out.

          • Greg

            Right, so my point is that moving to Switzerland won’t solve their problems. Everyone taxes the rich to some degree. Generally moreso in Europe than here. Some rich people might move to an island tax haven, but most generally prefer to stay where they are. If it were so simple, few rich people would stay in high tax California. Why not move to Texas? Because they don’t want to live in Texas, that’s why. Sure, some do. But most rich people want to stay close to good weather, culture, and Michelin starred restaurants. As well as close to the kind of employees they need to make their businesses run. Again, usually you won’t find those folks in the flyover, and you certainly won’t find them in the Cayman Islands.

            See, the conventional wisdom that rich people will just move to wherever taxes are lower, breaks down for one very simple reason. Because when you’re rich, taxes just aren’t your primary consideration. You can afford to pay, so you just live where you want to live, and you pay. Sure, you whine, and you try to buy off the local government to give you breaks. But when that fails, you still stay for the most part. So tax away!

          • Almondy

            I see what you are saying but, even so, the rich have tax mitigation strategies open to them that mean that they don’t need to move to tax havens (and perhaps Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai might be better examples).

            For instance, Buffett’s whines about how his secretary pays a higher rate of tax than he does. But that is because he makes sure that BRK pays no dividends so there is no income tax on his massive holding.

            Moreover he has put most of his wealth in trusts and foundations so, again, no tax on that nor any estate tax when he croaks.

            The Laffer principle that higher tax rates leads to lower revenues is at least partly predicated on the idea that the rich will either use avoidance strategies, or simply choose to have less income, rather than pay tax rates above a certain psychological limit, typically around 40% or so.

            Taxing the rich may appease the envy mob, but it is a remarkably ineffective way of raising large amounts of tax. If you advocate for ambitious spending plans, you are going to have to tax most voters and workers to pay for it

          • Greg

            The Laffer principle has been all but discredited. You can craft laws that make the rich pay their fair share (or not accumulate so much of the nation’s wealth in the first place), if only the political will were there.

          • Almondy

            Tax rates in most of the west (France aside, and they are backpeddling) reflect that Laffer has been accepted. The fact that a small cabal of far-left extremists don’t accept that doesn’t really matter.

            No serious politician in this nation is advocating returning to pre-Reagan levels of taxation. That is the definition of success for an economic theory.

            But my real point is that argument for progressive causes will fail if they are little more than a placard saying “tax the rich”. Even the poor won’t vote for that.

            It must be very lonely where you are.

          • Greg

            You’re confusing politics and economics, Sam. Serious economists generally view the Laffer curve as Laughable. Even those who still believe in that religion are saying that the hypothetical “optimum” tax is probably around 70%.

            You’re right that politicians aren’t proposing increasing taxes on the rich, but it’s not because no one wants to. The overwhelming majority of Americans want to increase taxes on the rich. The reasons why it’s not being proposed are complex, but basically it boils down to the fact that we live in a corporate oligarchy and not a democracy.

          • EssEffOh

            OMG! YES! Anything to get the rich to leave town and move to Switzerland. PERFECT!

      • VivaShotwell

        as usual, gary, you managed to miss the point entirely.

    • jhayes362

      In order to save the village we had to destroy it.

    • EssEffOh

      Oh, HELL to the NO. Keep corporate influence out of public schools. TAX the rich, don’t give them naming rights on our public institutions.

  • jhayes362

    This is but one element of a larger trend in our society, where there is a price for everything that is unrelated to real value or social worth. This won’t stop until the greedy moneyed interests find a way to charge us for the air we breathe.

    No surprise that this is coming out of the mayor’s office. Mayor’s next step will be to provide naming rights to City Hall.

    • zzz

      Corporations usually can only make you pay for something if there is an exchange, I think you mean government. Politically left or right it is always trying to involve itself in your life be it getting your money or telling you how to live, while I can just not buy bud light.

      • Almondy

        The reason we must place strict limits on what a government can do is precisely because of their unique ability to change the law to take what is yours and call it theirs.

        The founding fathers understood this perfectly. Some have forgotten.

        Tim thinks that the only purpose of corporations is to fund his pet projects. He doesn’t think they should get anything in return. But then he doesn’t have to actually decide anything important or make tough decisions.

        Politics is the art of the compromise but Tim is as uncompromising as he is powerless.

        • zzz

          A problem comes with corporate/government collusion, private prisons for example. Or public domaining property to build malls.

          Both are to be watched, it takes the two colluding for one to get over usually, while one of the two can get over all on it’s own.

      • jhayes362

        Meet the new boss (corporations); same as the old boss (government). But there is a difference: we have a modicum of control over the old boss, something the right is trying to wipe out with secrecy (the TPP agreement) and unlimited campaign spending.

        Let’s suppose SF decided to turn over its police department to a for profit corporation. You’re at home one evening and someone is trying to break in your front door. You call the police. They’ll send out a cruiser, but they need your credit card number first.

        Our public investments, including education, have helped make the U.S. economy the strongest in the world. Multinational corporations aren’t patriotic and don’t care about that, only that they be allowed to maximize profits and operate as they please. It’s a new form of feudalism and it’s gaining momentum.

        • zzz

          You are conflating a number of issues.

        • Greg

          Well they already do that with health care, so police is just the next logical step. You get a heart attack and call the ambulance, and next thing you know you get hit with a $20,000 dollar bill for the taxi ride. Of course they don’t ask for the money up front, because that would be unprofessional. It’s more professional to send the bill later and bankrupt you when you can’t pay.

          • Almondy

            Who would you prefer to pay your $20,000 bill?

          • sffoghorn

            You, personally.

          • Almondy

            Point being that everyone thinks someone else should pay their bills. Socialism is an attempt at outsourcing your obligations to others.

          • sffoghorn

            Yes, and the whole concept of insurance is pooled risk for profit. There is no incentive in pooling risk for profit other than to deny claims. Social insurance eliminates profit which can go to pay more claims. But that would not be as fun as passing a law requiring you personally to go bankrupt to help others with health costs.

          • Almondy

            No, the reason to pool risk is so that no one person gets financially ruined just because they get sick.

            And of course it is now illegal to not carry insurance, So Greg is implying that he is a criminal.

            My heathcare plan is free. So in a sense, you are paying for it. Thanks.

          • sffoghorn

            It is all about the individuals rather than the policies with you.

          • Almondy

            People here have said the exact same thing about you.

            But Greg is still incorrect that anyone has to pay 20K for summoning an ambulance, unless they have broken the law.

          • tnc

            The question is why is it $20,ooo, and not who pays.

  • sffoghorn

    Enrique Pearce Elementary!

  • zzz

    People often like to cite root causes, whenever I hear someone bemoan prop 13 I mention the “root causes.”

    The law was sold as helping old people stay in their homes, while ending up being a boost for corporations.

    Anyhows, before prop 13 school spending was never enough, the more things change.

    • Almondy

      If the sole intent of Prop 13 was to keep old people in their homes, then it would not have been necessary. There is a provision anyway for old people to get a pass on their property taxes with the county taking corresponding liens on their property, and get paid upon sale and/or death.

      Moreover seniors can do a property exchange and maintain their cost basis

      No, the purpose of Prop 13 was to set clear limits on governments extorting taxes from the one thing that cannot be relocated – real estate. The temptation to tax to death anything that cannot move had become so abused by municipalities that the prop taxes due in some cities was doubling year-on-year.

      So the voters put a stop to it. Forever.

      • zzz

        I agree in that the districts were going overboard, I’m just stating how it was sold, and I think some of the real estate aspects are bit much.

        But this goes back to “root cause” if there is a root cause for federal voting laws we should take into account for, then why do we ignore root causes for prop 13?

        Prop 13 is a rote complaint that the only option seems to be complete repeal from some areas of the body politic, ignoring the “root causes”

        • chasmader

          Prop 13 passed because pretty much every municipality in the state had the power to raise local property taxes, and they did so with relish.
          I really get a kick out of some of commentators who were not alive when this passed and now are telling me how I felt when it was on the ballot and why my parents were tricked into voting for it. I was 14 at the time and I can assure anyone that my parents and pretty much everyone passed Prop 13 to rein in Government spending and taxation.

          • Almondy

            Yes, I wasn’t around at the time but my understanding is as you describe it.

            It’s also useful to see it as just one component of a global trend, culminating in the election of Reagan and Thatcher, which finally turned back the tide of ever increasing regulations and taxes, the privatization of government-run businesses, the capping of union abuses, and a rebellion against socialism and communism, which ultimately led to the destruction of the Soviet Union and the liberating of Eastern Europe.

            If politicians won’t stop spending, then we turn off the spigot

  • RealFakeSanFranciscan

    Really, merely asking to have their name on the front of something seems like about the least offensive of the many things that a rich dude offering lots of money to the public could demand. Half of our streets are named are dead rich dudes.

  • sffoghorn

    Can haz stylesheetz?

  • KH

    A local political organization is trying to reform Prop. 13.
    We should all support them in their efforts. It is not in the public’s best interest to have corporations be the funding sources for any public schools whether it be K-12 or university level. There was a recent article in the New Yorker concerning the earthquakes caused by Fracking (have to capitalize because of auto-correct) and because all the Oklahoma’s state universities are now funded by oil and gas money, there is no neutral scientific reports which can present the environmental case against Fracking. All the geology departments are underwritten by big oil and therefore are ham-strung in their ability to present their findings.

    We need to keep corporations out of the school system. We need to reform Prop. 13 and return to Reagan era taxation. We need to make sure our educational system does not turn into the next frontier of consumer culture and does not become the mouthpiece for corporate interests.

  • You could make a case that there is collusion and price manipulation in the housing market by large technology companies and Airbnb – which is what rent control is really all about. It is about preventing market manipulation and abuse.

    If you are caught manipulating a market in the securities industry you will go to a federal pen for a very long time. It is exactly what the Enron traders did to the natural gas futures market – corner a market, drive the prices up and profit from the consequences,leaving numerous small businesses destroyed in the process. And apparently there is no market too big to manipulate, as the largest banks in the world were recently indicted for price manipulation in the $5 trillion foreign exchange markets.
    If you were the head of a big technology company and bought a lot of property in San Francisco, then moved thousands of highly paid workers to the area with limited housing available that is a variation of the same theme – land is essentially no different from any other commodity.

    • Fishchum

      “You could make a case that there is collusion and price manipulation in
      the housing market by large technology companies and Airbnb”

      – You could? How, exactly?

      • I was speaking hypothetically but if there were in fact, any collusions between large companies specifically engaging in illegal behavior in order to influence prices to the detriment of the public that could be a case. You would have to get a federal prosecutor interested in pursuing it, or a lawyer with a lot of experience in complex federal litigation. I don’t know if exactly how you would prove that a companies acted specifically to restrict housing supply for example did any of their executives buy a large amount of the housing in the area prior to moving there? Or are they influencing politicians to not build additional housing? Is Airbnb getting any business from Google or facebook? Are any of these companies offering their employees bonuses to live in certain areas? If any of that is going on it could be considered racketeering. You could definitely prove that the public is being damaged . All of this is hypothetical, I don’t know if any of this is going on, but the whole thing smells fishy to me.

        • Fishchum

          Translated: “I haven’t a fucking clue as to whether a case could be made and I’m just talking out of my ass”.

          • Do some research on your own if you are interested. I don’t get paid to write here. I am just commenting as an outsider that the whole thing is reminiscent of a crazed speculative bubble and a spectacular job of market manipulation.
            Honestly SF is a lovely city but its just another city on the Pacific coast with cold rocky beaches and an undertow that will kill you. Why doesn’t everyone just build somewhere where there is more space?

          • Fishchum

            Why would I research an absolutely preposterous and idiotic notion? I love it when people make outrageous claims, and then when asked to back up those claims tell others to “do the research”.

          • Then why would you ask me “exactly how” ?Nothing is as preposterous and idiotic as paying $50,000 a year to live in a tiny apartment or a million dollars for some tiny condominium when you could get twice as much land elsewhere. The whole damn city (including you) are on drugs

          • Fishchum

            Because I enjoy it when know-nothing blowhards actually get called out on their nonsense when asked to back up their ridiculous assertions.

            “there is collusion and price manipulation in the housing market by large technology companies and Airbnb”

            – Holy shit, do you even listen to yourself?

          • I don’t really enjoy trading insults with a nameless stranger on the internet but anything can be manipulated nowadays. The foreign exchange market trades over $5 trillion per day – that is bigger than the entire US GDP in one day and that market was manipulated.

          • Fishchum

            So what? that doesn’t have fuck all to do with San Francisco’s current housing situation. Just because “anything” can be manipulated these days (another dubious claim) in no way supports the idea that technology companies and AirBnB are colluding and manipulating prices within the housing market.

  • sffoghorn

    Margaret Brodkin, a longtime public-schools advocate, told me that the proposal is “outrageous. The district would take a measure designed to protect our kids from commercialism and twist it into the opposite of that.

    “It’s a reflection of what’s going on in the country, where we are starving the public sector and giving our institutions over to private corporations.”

    Didn’t Margaret Brodkin formerly head both Coleman Advocates for Youth, a private corporation that fought for funding for other private corporations from the public sector for the kinds of functions that the public sector had formerly provided?

    And wasn’t she then appointed by Gavin Newsom, a politician owned and operated by private corporations, through the revolving door to run the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, the public sector grant making arm that the private corporation Coleman Advocates would appear before to urge public sector funding of the private corporations that Coleman represented?