Thursday, June 16, 2011

Should Bojangles assume government functions?

I'm imagining walking into a South Carolina classroom in the near future and seeing corporate logos on the doorways, windows and walls, the same way they festoon NASCAR racers. For example, "Today's lesson is brought to you by Fruit Roll-Ups." Or "Just do your best on the test: Nike." How about: "Drop those heavy books and pick up a Kindle."

Sounds farfetched? We already have corporate sponsorship advertisements on soft drink machines in high school common areas, and billboards ringing our sports fields and arenas.

Do we wonder why? It's due, in largest part, to the fact that corporate sponsors give funds -- in exchange for the rights to advertise to children in schools -- that our lawmakers choose not to give.

Everyone has seen some version of a bumper sticker that has made the rounds for a generation; it says, roughly, Imagine the day when schools have all the resources they need, and the Pentagon holds a bake sale to buy more jets.

No one is advocating weakening national defense, but the sentiment is sound. At the state level, our government leaves such a deep hole in education funding year after year that district school boards can only say yes when corporate interests come offering slight donations, regardless of the conditions.

So educators should be grateful, I suppose, when concerned businesses like Bojangles raises $20,000 from its customers for state teachers and public education, as reported this week.

More than 100 company-and franchise-operated restaurants across the state held a two-week in-store fundraiser where customers purchased $1 and $5 paper apples to honor teachers who made a difference in their lives.

Wednesday, the money raised was donated to South Carolina Future Minds, a nonprofit organization dedicating to supporting education.

Camden Middle School's Lori Cooper, who happens to be the 2010-2011 Kershaw County was selected from the thousands of teachers honored online and in Bojangles' restaurants during May's Teacher Appreciation Month Celebration and awarded with a five-night Caribbean cruise.

"In times like this where budget considerations or budgets are tough its wonderful to see a company reaching out and appreciation teachers and showing us that what we do really matters," said Cooper.

I love a two-piece dark dinner with dirty rice and iced tea as much as the next one, but I suspect Bojangles got the better end of this deal. How far do we imagine that $20,000 will go in filling the hole left by lawmakers? Not far. But advertising time on broadcast networks is expensive, and I bet several newscasts have already mentioned, or plan to mention, the effort made by the chicken chain to help our children.

Certainly, I thank Bojangles for making the effort.

But in an ideal world, our lawmakers would meet students' resource needs in the state budget, and whatever our business community wanted to do would be like the icing atop a Bo-Berry biscuit, not the biscuit itself.

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