School Report Cards Offer Happy Meals

American public schools partner with McDonalds to market fast food to kids.

ByABC News via GMA logo
February 6, 2009, 8:51 PM

Dec. 8, 2007 — -- McDonalds prints coupons on report cards that reward young children for getting good grades.

As childhood obesity rates soar, the controversy is growing about this potentially harmful partnership between fast food companies and public schools.

Susan Pagan couldn't believe it when her nine-year-old daughter Cathy came home from school with a report card that included a photo of McDonalds items. Cathy was thrilled, because the report card offered every student who gets As and Bs a free "Happy Meal," and she was one of those bright students.

"I was appalled and shocked, because I don't want her eating that type of food," said Pagan.

Where the Pagans live in Seminole County, Fla., the local school board has cut a deal with McDonalds. For $1,600 McDonalds covers the cost of supplying and printing the report cards, and in exchange they get the opportunity to market fast food rewards on each card.

The school board defends the practice by saying that these are much needed funds.

"We're looking at millions of dollars of shortages for the coming year and years, so any help we can get from our business partners has always been appreciated but especially in the lean time it's appreciated even more," explained Regina Klaer from the Seminole County School District.

The commercialization of education has become an increasingly contentious issue across the country, as cash-strapped school boards try to raise money without raising taxes.

"McDonalds has taken in-school marketing to a new low," said Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. "Childhood obesity is a major public health problem, and here's McDonald's, bypassing parents, targeting children directly, with a message that doing well in school deserves a Happy Meal."