The Pulse: Name that School, Trim That Deficit
By LORRAINE FORTE (CATALYST CHICAGO)
With Chicago’s financially ailing public school system struggling to improve academic performance at its 675 public schools, education has emerged as a central issue in the municipal election.
A questionnaire sent to the six mayoral candidates asked, “What would success with your education agenda look like at the end of your first term?” The responses were mostly campaign boilerplate — fewer dropouts, higher test scores, more college-bound graduates and better classroom technology.
But one candidate, William Walls III, proposed addressing the schools’ financial woes with an unusual idea that has been tried elsewhere: selling naming rights for schools to corporations.
Mr. Walls, a community activist, suggested that the city’s largest public high school, 4,200-student Lane Tech, might be rechristened the Sprint-Lane Tech Campus, in exchange for a $1.6 million initial investment and $600,000 a year from a business like Sprint, the communications company. He also suggested that that companies and individuals might pay a fee to have their names on certain classrooms.
Public school officials in the past have floated the idea of having corporations finance the renovation of field houses and gyms in exchange for naming rights, but not entire schools or classrooms.
A schools spokeswoman said renaming school properties “is a consideration for the next administration.”
The questionnaire survey was conducted by the Chicago News Cooperative and its media partners WBEZ/Chicago Public Media, WTTW-Channel 11 and Catalyst Chicago, a nonprofit publication focusing on Chicago public schools.