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Beverly Hills School District's Naming-For-Sponsorship Scheme is Predictably Disastrous

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The Beverly Hills Unified School District may seem flush with cash (they always manage to find money to fight the Purple Line subway), but that doesn't mean they don't still look for crafty ways to bridge those budget shortfalls that all public schools face. It's adopted a system that allows donors to give large sums of money in exchange for having their names put on things (like you might find at a college), and has "a menu of buildings, courtyards, auditoriums, even trees, for sale," says the LA Times. So, for example, for $50,000 your name can be slapped on the school cafeteria or the teacher's lounge. Looking for a more economical donation? For anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 ("depending on its size and location"), a tree can be named in your honor. Basically all campus locations, from the front lawn of the high school ($2.5 million) to the playground at the elementary school ($150,000) to a planetarium ($500,000) can carry your name, if you've got the cash.

The district's not picky, either: just look at the high school basketball court that, for $200,000, was named for Sam Nazarian, the hotelier who recently lost control of his SLS Las Vegas hotel after an investigation by the Nevada Gaming Board revealed he was giving millions to a convicted money launderer. (He also failed the investigators' drug test and admitting to recently snorting coke.)

But strangely enough, that's not the donor causing some Beverly Hillsians to reexamine the way that the district accepts donors' funds. A real estate agent and Beverly Hills public schools alum, Michael J. Libow, has his name on a high school math lab ($30,000), an atrium ($21,700), and a "playspace" ($23,000) at two different elementary schools, but when he donated $35,000 to name a courtyard at a third elementary school after himself, a fellow agent, Marty Halfon, whose kids go to Beverly Hills schools, cried foul. "The school board has allowed Michael Libow to have a private billboard on public property," complains Halfon.

Beyond that, Halfon says, $35,000 is too cheap a price for the courtyard considering that a playground costs $150,000. Halfon says that the district cut Libow a deal because he's well-connected, and that's not fair, and also he could totally do better: "Halfon said many of his former classmates at El Rodeo are from prominent families and could easily gather hundreds of thousands of dollars to name a building, for example, after one of their elementary school teachers." Additionally, Halfon has offered to pay $35,000 to have Libow's name taken off of the courtyard. Maybe he's also just stumbled onto a new and innovative way to encourage donations: pay to have the names of people you don't like removed from buildings.
· Along with his name on Beverly Hills campuses, donor buys controversy [LAT]
· Beverly Hills School Board Commissioned High School Kids to Make Anti-Subway Propaganda [Curbed LA]