Education, From The Capitol To The Classroom

Advertising Age: Why Billboards For Schools Are Becoming A Common Sight

Kyle Stokes / StateImpact Indiana

An advertisement for Maconaquah schools along U.S. Highway 31, just south of Peru, boasts “Free Transfer Tuition” in bold letters. That refers to a change in Indiana law allowing students to change public schools more freely.

We’ve written before about how Indiana’s public schools are adopting full-bore marketing plans to attract students to their districts — even occasionally buying ad space inside the boundaries of neighboring districts.

The Madison Courier reports on the change in state law that started the trend, and how that trend is playing out in southeast Indiana:

The change came after the state took over the school general fund in 2009 and tweaked the rules for student tuition support. Under the new format, commonly called open enrollment, the tuition support follows the student. It extends to charter schools, as well, because they are public schools and open to students across the state. 

For public school corporations, the shift has blurred the lines of district boundaries and has forced schools to seek fresh marketing initiatives to promote programs in order to compete with each other.

“Good or bad, that’s the nature of the game,” said Southwestern Superintendent Steve Telfer…

“It’s not a message that we think, in any way, that our neighboring school systems are not doing a good job,” said Jennings County Superintendent Terry Sargent. “The state has forced us to be more competitive with one another, so we are.”

This is not just a new reality for schools in southeast Indiana, but for districts across the state.

“We need to market our schools,” Doug Arnold, superintendent of north-central Indiana’s Maconaquah School Corporation, told StateImpact last November. “We used to take it for granted that people knew we were doing good things. We can’t do that anymore,” Arnold says.



  • Clyde Gaw

    You’ve got to be kidding…This article only scrapes the surface…

    Here is the real scoop: Charter Schools have marketing money from big business and corporate interests eager to get their hands on taxpayer money devoted to public education, while public schools are allotted just enough money to operate and zero for marketing.

    The choice’s and innovation marketed by charters is a non choice and pure subterfuge as many charter schools are staffed with teachers without professional educator training who lack knowledge in child development, cognitive psychology, pedagogy nor the capacity to provide innovative learning experiences from a child centered approach.

    In Indiana, there is an effort under REPA 2 to pass teacher license rules that would exacerbate this issue within the public schools. The IDOE wants to make it easier for cheap, non professionally trained educators to get into the public school classrooms.

    Want high quality professional educators with low student-teacher ratios providing children with meaningful, multi-sensory, personalized educational experiences?

    Let’s have a real discussion about the kinds of learning experiences in store for children in Indiana public schools with the current emphasis on high stakes testing and teacher de-professionalization efforts pushed by the IDOE.

    • StateImpact Indiana

      Thanks for the comment. It’s clear charters are a factor when we’re talking about choice, but here’s something to keep in mind: there are only two charter schools that are anywhere close to where the original newspaper story was filed in Madison. (They’re in the Louisville suburbs.) As our map shows, in large areas of the state, access to charters is limited. This doesn’t take into account private options. But open enrollment likely makes up the bulk of the “school choice” debate in wide swaths of the state.

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