On Wednesday, the nation’s second largest school district voted to scrap fundraisers known as “McTeacher’s Nights,” which encourage students’ families to go to a local McDonald’s restaurant and order meals from teachers serving as cashiers. Schools get a small cut of the take.
“While I am thankful to the independent McDonald’s operators and business partners for their desire to support our students, I look forward to working with them to support our schools without relying on the labor of our teachers or interest of our families to promote food and other products that are in conflict with existing policies,” said the resolution effort’s leader and LAUSD School Board President Steve Zimmer in a statement.
According to the Los Angeles Unified district’s sponsorship guidelines, schools “may not accept donations from or promote organizations that market, sell or produce products that may be harmful to children including but not limited to, tobacco, alcohol, firearms, gambling, or high-fat and -calorie foods and drinks.”
The campaign to rid schools across the country of fast-food fundraisers was launched in October 2015 by the advocacy groups Corporate Accountability International and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. United Teachers Los Angeles, the National Education Association, and more than 50 state and local teachers’ unions across the country signed an open letter to McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook demanding to end the fundraisers, which they see as marketing tools for getting young people hooked on fast food.
“The fundamental issue here is the peddling of junk food to our students,” Cecily Myart-Cruz, a vice president of United Teachers Los Angeles, told Education Week. “Parents and students look to educators as guides. If I’m saying come to this McTeacher’s Night fundraiser, parents might oblige me. But it’s not the best for their families. Why would we promote high-fat, high-sugar, high-salt foods? Why would we do that to our kids?”
Myart-Cruz said McDonald’s gets 80 percent of the proceeds, and so schools need to find more creative and less destuctive ways to fundraise. For instance, as a 6th grade teacher, she raised money for class trips to Yosemite National Park by holding car washes, potluck dinners, and barbecues. Schools might consider holding fundraisers at restaurants serving more healthful fare, she said, or simply ask local businesses to make a donation.
For its part, McDonald’s defends the program, arguing that the money raised allows schools to pay for sports equipment, technology, and field trips, according to Mother Jones. Frank Sanchez, an owner of several McDonald’s franchises in Los Angeles, views the McTeacher’s Nights he has hosted as a way to give back. He provided this statement: “As a member of the community and a McDonald’s franchise, I have long supported what matters most to my customers and the community. McTeacher’s Nights are one way we do that. We’ve held these events at the request of and in partnership with local schools to help raise funds needed for important student programs and initiatives.”
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons user Mike Mozart
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.