San Diego teacher sells ad space on test papers

The ingenuity of public school teachers has long been tested. The bake sale, the wrapping-paper drive, the silent auction -- all have been called on over the years to underwrite school supplies. For many, the sacrifice is more personal. Education groups say the typical teacher spends between $400 and $500 of his or her own money to make ends meet in the classroom.

To that tradition now comes a new entry: paid advertising. Tom Farber, a calculus teacher in suburban San Diego, raised money for photocopying expenses by selling ads at the bottom of his tests. Most were inspirational quotes underwritten by parents (“Do your best. That’s what matters.”) and several were from local businesses.

We can imagine a bad end to this idea -- beer ads, say, or coupons for the local head shop. But Farber’s modest and creative solution has given his students both the resources they need and a real-life lesson on California’s budget crisis. The state’s public school students might as well learn now that Sacramento lawmakers, especially when facing a $41-billion budget shortfall, are not the ones most dedicated to protecting them from cuts.

If nothing else, Farber has given his students that teachable moment.