Elsewhere online
February 04, 2015

In Beverly Hills, Gifts Put Names on Public-School Grounds

The Los Angeles Times writes about the Beverly Hill Unified School District's sale of naming rights to campus facilities, an uncommon practice for a public-school system and one that has ignited a spat between two area real estate agents.

Via an education foundation, the district offers a menu of buildings, open spaces, auditoriums, and more, with donation options ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 to name a tree on a school's grounds to $10-million for a street on the Beverly Hills High campus. Critics say such incentives in prosperous communities widen inequity in educational opportunity, but backers termed the naming program a practical approach to meeting schools' financial needs.

A different kind of controversy erupted over a $35,000 gift that put Michael J. Libow's name on the wall of a courtyard at El Rodeo Elementary. Marty Halfon, a fellow Beverly Hills real estate agent, said the deal amounted to advertising disguised as philanthropy, saying the district "allowed Michael Libow to have a private billboard on public property."

"I can never imagine being condemned by anyone for being charitable," Mr. Libow said. "The city gives so much to me that I like to give back to the city. That's my motivation. I'm a product of the city and its schools."