It can be difficult to know who the “good guys” are in some stories. In this one, there’s innuendo and lack of transparency from both sides, so knowing what is and isn’t a workable plan at reasonable costs is hard to say. Fresno Unified implemented a PR campaign at the beginning of the year and has spent $52,000 in the costs of developing, producing, and placing their public service announcements on television, radio, and in print since January.
The ads are geared toward pushing Fresno students to graduate from high school and move on to further education at college. The teacher’s union feels the money would have been better spent in supplies for classrooms and for more teachers so they can have smaller student count under each teacher. Conversely, the school district points out that the teachers union, in the same period, spent more than $100K on PR.
In truth, the school system should be more transparent in their spending. But the issues aren’t just about this PR campaign – also of concern is a large lawsuit the district chooses to fight costing them possibly millions in legal fees. Without that lawsuit, it might well be that the parents and teachers union wouldn’t be dragging the current PR campaign into the limelight.
The PR campaign is actually a good idea, and the school might look at presenting the information in a way that makes financial sense to the public. They spend $52K now to move their 89 percent graduation rate much closer to 100 percent which down the road translates to more tax dollars over the next 30-50 years. Students who graduate from high school will make better pay, and can go on to college, earning even greater pay in the future. Greater pay means those students and their families contribute to the community in multiple ways, not least of which is the tax base.
Showing the $52K and the increased parent volunteer efforts because of the campaign are an investment in the community’s future. Parents should see it as something that can directly improve their financial futures as well. If their children become adults who make more than enough to support themselves, the parents won’t have to spend money from their retirement accounts to help their children through financial difficulties. Their children can support their offspring and encourage them toward college as well. Does the $52K make a lot more sense to the parents when that view is presented? Probably.
The Teacher’s Union is a different story altogether. There is no discounting the impact a great teacher can have on many lives, but not all teachers fall into that category. Unions are there to protect all of their members and make their lives better; that’s why members pay dues and are willing upon rare occasion to go on strike. It is hoped that the Union also wants the best for the students, but that’s not really their job or their stated purpose.
Knowing which side is best to support is difficult in these situations. The school district has some fences to mend over the lawsuit issues, and they need to be more transparent with their spending. But they also need to put their 12 employees working in the PR and communications office to work at letting people know the long-term benefits of the current campaign. That will, most likely, garner more support from within the community.