(Crystal A. Proxmire, 11/29/2011)
Facebook is full of free advertising for Pepsi as parents, students and school administration are pushing the Ferndale Fine Arts Boosters entry into a contest that could win the Ferndale Eagles Marching Band $50,000 from the giant soft drink corporation.
Voting can be done through the www.refresheverything.com website and by texting 109798 to 73774.
Across the country, 323 applicants are vying to see who brings Pepsi the most votes. The top ten vote-getters will be given $50,000. The others get nothing for their advertising efforts. Pepsi encourages participants to make videos, online posts and other promotional materials to spread the word about the Pepsi Refresh program. The Ferndale Eagles Marching Band is in 13th place as of Nov 29. Voting ends Nov 30.
The $50,000 popularity contest prize would be used by the Ferndale Eagles Marching Band to help “lower student fees (currently at $425/year), help with costs and need for equipment and increase instructional and design staff pay,” according to a Nov. 23 E Newsletter. The contest is held monthly with prizes given in smaller sums as well to those who enter other categories.
In 2010, Pepsi Co increased their revenue by 40% from the year before by limiting their North American bottling contracts and through increased expansion in overseas markets, according to a report by Reuters. Last year revenue was at $14.80 billion.
Across the state students are seeing less and less funding, while breaks to corporations continue to increase, right along with big corporate profits. In April State Senator Vincent Gregory visited Ferndale to talk about the budget process, including education cuts (https://oaklandcounty115.com/2011/04/14/senator-gregory-visits-ferndale-public-library/) and in June State Representative Ellen Cogen Lipton warned about cuts to education funding (https://oaklandcounty115.com/2011/06/21/liptons-update-on-school-funding/). In May a parent, Joshua Kimball, urged readers “to be an elephant” for kids and to stand up to those who fight to take away school funding. (https://oaklandcounty115.com/2011/05/15/view-be-an-elephant-for-your-kids-speak-up/).
The ultimate cut to students in 2011 was $470 per student. The Michigan Policy Network reported “The current finalized budget plan abates the state’s minimum “per student foundation allowance” for public schools by approximately six percent (which equates to $6,846). This results in a $300 per student reduction in addition to the $170 cut Michigan legislators had already agreed to, totaling in $470 in per pupil loses. The 8.8 billion dollar education budget for FY 2012 is a significant drop from that of the previous years. Legislators did agree to offset the cuts by setting aside $155 million to help school districts pay their retirement cost. Schools may also apply to receive $100 per pupil as an incentive to implement the “best practices” for saving money such as consolidation of non-instructional services with other school districts.”
Consolidation and privatization of services take control out of local hands, and the proliferation of charter schools further compromises public school funding and community control.
For the same budget year, elected officials in Lansing voted to give a $1.8 billion tax break to rich CEOs and corporate special interests.
Even as recently as Nov 29, Senators Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor) and Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor) held a press conference to announce the introduction of a constitutional amendment to ban for-profit schools in Michigan to help curb the trend towards corporate control over tasks that have traditionally been held in the public trust, through the government which is supposed to represent the people.
According to a press release by Hopgood, “In October, Republicans pushed legislation that would remove Michigan’s cap on charter schools, essentially opening the doors to for-profit schools and increased privatization of teachers and school workers. This constitutional amendment aims to protect our children’s education from being compromised at the expense of corporate profits.”
The battle to see what the state values more – education or increased revenue for the rich – continues to play out in Lansing and at a local level as those interested in school funding spend their time trying to text and gain online votes, not for elected officials, but to Pepsi. And while there are many active parents and administrators, the Pepsi Refresh
In the Ferndale Schools E Newsletter for Nov 23, 2011, Elon Jamison, FHS Marching Band Director says, “For us to continue to grow the program, bring student fees down, and hopefully take it to yet another level of excellence, we need new sources of funding. We are currently pursuing corporate sponsorship, but are also going after the Pepsi Refresh Everything grant.”
Pepsi, a carbonated beverage with addictive caffeine, high levels of sugar, and chemicals linked to health problems, is not currently sold on school property during school hours.
Ferndale Schools has worked hard to institute healthy nutritional programs for students, including a top notch lunch program. (https://oaklandcounty115.com/2011/01/20/a-tribute-to-school-food/) In this same article, written in January, Director of Community Relations Stephanie Hall said teachers have noticed that students are more alert in class and seem to have less highs and lows in their energy levels since healthy choices became a priority. “By having consistent, healthy food the students have less behavioral problems. Teachers at all the schools have told me there has been a difference,” Hall said. “There are studies out there that show how caffeine, sugars, processed foods and chemicals affect our moods and our ability to concentrate.”
On top of the clear advertising agenda, there have been allegations of fraud in the Pepsi Refresh competition, and suspicion over how the votes are tallied. Because totals are not shown on the screen, only ranking, there are questions over how one might track the voting that they, and others, do. The company also allows employees and affiliates to take part in the contest. Those who are interested in reading more about allegations of fraud can also check out this facebook page which lists articles from various sources on the matter. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pepsi-refresh-scam/216497835034952?sk=info
Pepsi is also one of the top five civilian companies that profit from war, along with BP, FedEX, Dell and Kraft.
The Ferndale 115 News has received multiple requests, and even insults, because we did not take up the cause of promoting Pepsi sooner. It is our hope that people will recognize the big picture of education funding, and will take this amazing community spirit and ability to rally behind a cause, and put that effort towards making a difference for kids all around the state to be able to learn and be involved in every district, without having to compete for corporate crumbs while they rake in ridiculous profits at the expense of our communities.
Nonetheless, those who want to still help the cause, can text Pepsi using the information above.