Teacher Sells Advertising On Tests

America's public schools are being sorely tested by the economic crisis, with states and cities across the nation cutting their education budgets. That's forcing teachers to come up with unusual solutions, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone reports.

At a time when there seems to be advertising everywhere perhaps we shouldn't be surprised it's come to this: San Diego teacher Tom Farber is selling advertising on the bottom of math tests.

The ads appear as lines of text - "Braces by Stephen P. Henry D.M.D.," for example.

"I think it's sad that we have come to the point where we have to do that," says Christine Rafla, one of Farber's students.

It may be just one line. But it crosses a line that surprises even the teacher.

"I would have never have done this five years ago or ten years ago," Farber says. "I wouldn't even have thought of it because there was never a necessity."

But it is a necessity now, because San Diego area schools are facing a $51 million budget shortfall next year. Statewide, California schools are expecting at least $2.8 billion in cuts-and that number could grow to more than $7 billion.

At $10 dollars for a quiz, $20 for a test, and $30 for a final exam, Farber's ads don't pay for much- just the cost of printing the tests.

"I think this is one in the same time a story of American ingenuity and a story of American tragedy," says Arnold Fege of the Public Education Network.

Fege says the ads highlight a struggle teachers are facing everywhere.

School budgets nationwide are strained. Twenty-seven states have already cut their education budgets. Even in better economic times teachers have had to dip into their own pockets to keep classrooms going.

"Five, six hundred dollars buy a lot of supplies to do crafts and arts and things like that," says Joel Nydam, a teacher at Otter Lake Elementary School in Minnesota.

Countless of teachers like Nydam spend hundreds of dollars of their own money each year on classroom supplies.And those supplies are getting more expensive.

"It's hard to make the same amount go the same distance," Nydam says.

So now Nydam is one of the 5,000 teachers signed up on a Web site called "Gold Star Registry."

It's like a registry for wedding gifts. But here, here teachers can list the supplies they need and parents can make a donation.

Tom Farber has sold already most of his test page ads right through finals. "Anybody who criticizes this I challenge them to open up their wallets," he says.

In a tough economy, teachers like Farber and Nydam are offering lessons in survival, as well.
  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.

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