School districts in New York have the potential to bring in some extra income through sponsorships and advertising on school property, but the state Legislature needs to clarify the rules to allow it to happen more easily.

A report released Tuesday by the Empire Center for Public Policy points out that school districts and municipalities have shied away from pursuing advertising income because interpretations of the state constitution by the Attorney General’s Office, the Education Department and the Board of Regents have historically agreed that such deals are prohibited.

But the legality is so murky, Empire Center said, that sponsorship agreements “are largely absent in New York not because they’ve been banned, but because they haven’t been explicitly authorized.

We would like to see school districts have the option of exploring new revenue streams because it might help protect extracurricular activities like sports and music that are sometimes the first programs to face cuts during difficult budget times. On the other hand, the state needs to be careful not to open the floodgates and inadvertently pave the way for alcohol and tobacco ads in schools.

To that end, the Legislature can — and should — pass legislation specifically allowing things like naming rights for athletic facilities and advertising select products and services on school buses. At that point, it would be up to individual school districts to accept or reject proposals as they see fit.

The Empire Center suggests that school boards would want to come up with a list of ground rules to specify particular properties that could display ads; define the types of businesses that would be allowed to participate; develop a pricing structure; establish a process for considering proposals; and set conditions for contract expiration.

We understand that rural school districts aren’t going to sign million-dollar deals for the naming rights of their football stadiums. But sponsorships worth tens of thousands of dollars can be very helpful to districts trying to stretch every dollar on behalf of their students.

© 2019 Auburn Citizen

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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.