All of us want to provide our children with the best possible education, but doing so costs a great deal of money. Unfortunately, many school districts don't have all the funds they need to give children the first-class education they deserve. The Carnegie Foundation has recommended that schools create partnerships with businesses to bring in more funds.
A recent survey by the National Association of Secondary School Principals found that 92% of principals agree that schools should form such partnerships. Soft drink companies have created a successful model for these partnerships. Beverage sales by soft drink companies in high schools bring the schools tens of millions of dollars each year through profit sharing. Schools in low-income and urban neighborhoods often count on funds from the soft drink companies not just for "extras" but to make up for shortfalls in basic operating expenses. Many schools also use funds from soft drink companies for additional activities, including: athletic programs to promote physical fitness and better health, extra-curricular activities, computers, scholarships, instructional materials, field trips, and arts and theater programs.
Robert Kemmery, President of the Maryland School Principals Association, said: "Our soft drink partnership really works. We like it because there is local control at the school. We determine which beverages are sold and how the money is spent. This is truly a partnership that benefits students."
Soft drink companies stock their vending machines with a wide variety of beverages, including juice, water and sports drinks, in addition to carbonated soft drinks. Sugar-free and caffeine-free beverages are also available in many machines. Studies by the Georgetown University Center for Food and Nutrition Policy, the University of Michigan and others have shown th at soft drink consumption by school-age children is not linked to obesity and is not having other bad effects on health. Research has shown that a major cause of obesity in children is lack of exercise. As a society, we need to encourage children to spend less time watching TV and playing video games, and more time engaging in sports, exercise and active play. Many schools use funds from soft drink sales to help pay for physical education programs that do exactly these things.
Some people who send their own children to affluent suburban and private schools want to keep businesses out of all schools - including those in desperate need of more funding. These people have every right to work to ban soft drinks from their own schools. But what gives them the right to rob poorer children of millions of dollars? Are these anti-business crusaders going to replace the money that poorer schools lose if soft drink sales end? Local schools should be controlled locally. Outside groups should not be acting as food and beverage police in our schools. What's next? Banning cookies, ice cream and lemonade in the cafeteria? Banning cupcakes for classroom birthday parties? Soft drink companies deserve our thanks for creating a successful private-public partnership that is improving educational opportunities for children around the country.
What do you think?
William Reed is the author of "Who's Who in Black Corporate America." For questions or comments email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.