Cell-Phone Towers on California Schools to Enhance District’s Bottom Line

Published January 25, 2012

As a way of combating hard economic times, California’s Elk Grove Unified School District board announced it will allow negotiations to begin with cell-phone companies interested in locating their towers on school property.

Associate Superintendent of Elk Grove Unified School District Rob Pierce said each tower location could generate approximately $25,000 to $50,000 for the community, plus one-time initial payments to cover administration and legal costs.

“With these unprecedented budgetary times the district is interested in considering the additional revenue from potential lease agreements for cellular towers,” said Pierce. “We have seen numerous other public entities taking advantage of this opportunity, and we are therefore interested in exploring the options.”

Elk Grove Unified won’t be the only district that allows cell towers if the governing board approves them.

No Health Risks
Some critics of allowing cell towers on school property raise concerns about the low levels of radiation towers emit. However, Richard Bennett, a senior research fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan research and educational institute located in Washington DC, said cell towers do not emit dangerous levels of radiation.

“There’s no scientific basis for the fear that cell phones are a health risk,” said Bennett. “A study was conducted in Denmark recently correlating national databases for brain cancer and cell phone use that found long-term users of cell phones are actually a bit less likely to develop cancers than nonusers. If there were a risk, it would come from the energy radiated from the handset, not the tower, since the energy level falls off with the square of the distance from the transmitter. The more towers we have, the lower the energy level from the handset’s transmitter, so the people who are fighting new towers are actually exposing the children to more radiation, not less,” he said.

Pierce said because his district is just now entering the exploration process after the January announcement, he has not met resistance yet to cell phone towers being located on school property.

There are additional benefits communities may reap in addition to lease revenue. “Our neighboring communities will benefit from increased and enhanced cellular coverage,” Pierce said.

Alyssa Carducci ([email protected]) writes from Tampa, Florida.