McTeacher's Nights: Teachers Unions Say No To School Fundraisers : The Salt The fundraising events cast schoolteachers as servers at local McDonald's. Supporters say the events bring families and teachers closer. Critics say they turn teachers into billboards for fast food.

McTeacher's Nights: Teachers Unions Say No To School Fundraisers

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McDonald's is taking heat from teachers. The issue is fundraisers for schools that are known as McTeacher's Nights. Dozens of state and local teachers unions say these events benefit McDonald's more than they do schools. NPR's Allison Aubrey has the story.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: About a year ago, Mark Noltner, who lives in the Chicago suburbs, found a flier in his daughter's backpack that was announcing a school fundraiser.

MARK NOLTNER: On the flier was a picture of Ronald McDonald, and it was promoting what's called McTeacher's Night.

AUBREY: At McTeacher's Nights, local McDonald's franchises put teachers behind the counter, serving up food to their students who come in. And schools get a cut of the night's sales. McDonald's says these evenings are all about community and fun and fundraising to benefit the schools. But parents like Mark Noltner don't see it this way. Noltner says, when teachers wear T-shirts with McDonald's logo as a way of promoting the McTeacher's Nights at school, they're becoming walking billboards for the fast-food chain.

NOLTNER: To find out that this marketing was creeping into schools was very frustrating.

AUBREY: After looking into the practice, Noltner complained to the principal at his daughter's school. His take? McTeacher's Nights benefit McDonald's more than they benefits the schools.

NOLTNER: A lot of these McTeacher fundraisers bring in a very miniscule amount of money for the schools. We're usually talking $1 to $2 per student.

AUBREY: In a written statement, a McDonald's spokesperson told us that, since 2013, McDonald's restaurants have paid over $2.5 million to organizations for donations from McTeacher's Nights. And this figure doesn't include the donations from franchise-owned McDonald's around country. But it seems, increasingly, teachers are turned off. This week, dozens of state and local teachers unions, from California, to Ohio, to Vermont, called for an end to McTeacher's Nights. They've joined with a group called Corporate Accountability International. And in a joint letter to McDonald's CEO Steve Easterbrook, the group says it's wrong to enlist teachers to sell kids on a brand like McDonald's. Here's Sriram Madhusoodanan of Corporate Accountability International.

SRIRAM MADHUSOODANAN: At the end of the day, you know, McDonald's core brand and most profitable items are burgers, fries and soda.

AUBREY: And he says that's not what schools or teachers should be promoting to kids. Melissa Cropper, who's president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers, signed onto the letter, too. She says, beyond promoting unhealthy eating habits, McTeacher's Nights put teachers in a bad position.

MELISSA CROPPER: McDonald's is using the bond between a student and a teacher to create business for themselves, and I see that as exploitation.

AUBREY: In a statement, McDonald's says schools have a choice when they seek to do fundraisers. And what the company has heard from schools that have participated is that they have a, quote, "great time connecting with their students and neighbors in meaningful ways." Allison Aubrey, NPR News.

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