What’s in a name, you ask? Maybe millions of dollars for schools. Naming rights to public school buildings, field houses, stadiums, administration buildings and anything else associated with a community’s educational experience might open up a simple, lucrative way to help cash-strapped schools.

That may sound fanciful and like unadulterated commercialism, but professional sports franchises and many institutions of higher learning long have found naming rights to be a solid source of extra funding. Public schools are a little late looking at such arrangements, but some reportedly are testing the name game as a way to help infrastructure needs as well as fund new programs, additional teachers and higher salaries.

A wealthy patron or family might be interested in setting up a big-bucks, long-term endowment to have a name put on a sports venue near and dear to their hearts. Corporate America embraces advertising, and what better way to keep a name in front of the public than to have it on prominent school buildings, attached to special events or, perhaps, even linked to educational programs.

Furthermore, by putting a sunset provision on naming rights, an auction-like atmosphere might be created every 15 years or so, with special interests bidding against each other for the opportunity to keep a name or put a new one on a specific school structure. It might add millions of dollars over the years to a school district’s income.

Consider the professional sports franchises that occupy stadiums or field houses bearing the names of corporate benefactors. Universities have employed naming rights for special projects, such as constructing arenas or field houses. Not every name attached to a building should be bought and paid for, of course. Many buildings honor prominent educators, sports figures or politicians vital to institutional development. But there is no denying that an additional $200,000 or so coming into a school district each year from corporate entities or families would be welcome.

The biggest complaint to selling the naming rights for school buildings undoubtedly will be the notion of commercializing public education. But who really cares about that if the ability of schools to deliver a quality education is improved.

Our primary concern is the equality of opportunity. Small to medium-sized communities might find the competition intense with big cities for corporate dollars. While St. Louis, Kansas City, Springfield, Wichita and Tulsa might find sponsors eager to pony up $500,000 or $1 million for the rights to put their names on a elementary or secondary school or a stadium, smaller cities might find themselves left with few or no buyers.

With public education increasingly in need of more money, naming rights would seem an intriguing option to raising taxes.

Trending Video