July 12th, 2007

'Taco Bell High' or 'Wal-mart Public School' coming to Canada?

Agence France-Press

Canadian students could soon be graduating from “Taco Bell High” or “Wal-Mart Public School” if trustees here go ahead with a scheme to sell school naming rights to corporations to raise extra funds.

The proposal has pitted members of the cash-strapped Ottawa-Carleton District School Board with public education advocacy groups who fear it would jeopardize universal education.

“No one wants to go to Taco Bell High,” Ellen Dickson, chair of the Ottawa Carleton Assembly of School Councils, told the daily Ottawa Citizen.

But proponents say it would help eliminate growing budget deficits at many of Canada’s school boards, hit by rising enrolment and cuts in provincial funding.

The Ottawa school board, for example, passed a 634.8-million dollar (595-million US) budget last week, but even after deep cuts, was left with a deficit of 6.2 million dollars (5.8 million US).

Ottawa trustee Riley Brockington told the Citizen in support of the plan: “I have no problem with the Loeb Library or the Cognos Centre of Performing Arts,” invoking the names of a grocery chain and a software firm, respectively.

But Annie Kidder of the parents group People for Education countered: “The minute you end up with a Wal-Mart Public School ... you are taking away the notion of the importance of public education, which is to provide every child, no matter where they live or the income of their parents, with an equal chance at success.”

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