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New York Schools Propose Swapping Ad Space for Computers
The Associated Press, April 7, 2000

A task force of New York school officials and computer executives has proposed that the nation's largest public school system swap advertising space on a school Web site for low-cost computers.

The proposal offers a means of financing new technology for NewYork City public schools that could not be paid for with tax dollars, board members said. "This is a major shift in the ways we think about teaching and learning and how we fund these activities," said Irving S. Hamer, a board member who oversees the task force.

Offering advertising to corporate partners is the only way to get their assistance in building and maintaining the system, said William C.Thompson Jr., president of the Board of Education.

Under the proposal, laptops would be distributed each year to all 85,000 fourth-graders at reduced cost. After nine years, all students in grades 4 through 12 would use their own computers. Students would be able to click on commercial logos on the school Web site to buy products, with a portion of each sale going to the board. The board is to review the proposal next week. It is believed to be the only one of its kind in a public school system, The New York Times said Friday.

Through the Web site, students could receive homework assignments and teachers could communicate with parents and school administrators. The commercial aspects of the system would be strictly separated from material for classroom use, Hamer said. But critics say the board is headed toward becoming a revenue-generating, advertising-driven entity.

A recently approved proposal allows corporate donors to have their names attached to school facilities. "We have a great deal of concern about the negative potential of using children to promote commercial concerns and using class time for things that could be considered as advertisements," said Vicki Rafel of the National Parent Teacher Association.

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