Moral dilemma

Yeah, as I mentioned before, I had a little dilemma the other day.

Background: I edit the elementary school newsletter. (I love this job. If you need a newsletter, let me know.) Our newsletter has paid advertisements. Another mom is in charge of getting the ads.

A teacher calls me up the other day and tells me she has arranged for a local vision clinic to hold free vision screenings for kids. These screenings are more comprehensive than the ones we get for free from the county. However, although the screening is free and no-obligation, the clinic hopes that if a problem is found, the family will return to the clinic. The teacher then tells me that she mentioned it to the principal, who told her it should be a paid ad, not a blurb/article which would be free. So the teacher wants to know how much it would cost. She will pay it herself because she already told the vision clinic it would be free. Well, it would cost $75. I can not let this teacher pay for the ad. She is a reading recovery specialist who knows all too well how vision problems can cause reading problems. She is super-dedicated -- a wonderful, caring person and a very talented teacher. She took it upon herself to arrange this event.

More background: the principal vets everything before I print it. In the past, she has occasionally declared that other "blurbs" were really ads, and her rationale has never been clear to me. For example, a struggling coop preschool right in the neighborhood gave me a little article -- that was an ad. Yet a children's theatre production was not.

Now, here's the really interesting part. There are wheels within wheels, as a P.G. Wodehouse character (Monty Bodkin?) used to say. It turns out this particular decision is probably not as arbitrary as the others seemed to be. If the school sponsors, or appears to sponsor, something like a vision screening that could lead to parents being told their child has a problem, the school district then could be required to provide treatment for it. As in, pay for. (Makes me think of that bumper sticker: wouldn't it be great if our schools had all the money they needed and the military had to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber?)

The other mom persuaded the teacher and me to just go ahead and print the ad as though it were paid for. So it's going to appear on the page with the ads from the dollar store, the organic food market, the realtor, the dad who just started his own law firm. The heading on this page says: Please support our advertisers. Their paid ads reduce newsletter costs so we can use PTO funds for other things.

I know that in the scheme of things this is probably not a very big deal, but I feel weird about it.