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Election 2012: How We'd Spend the Ad Dollars

At just under three weeks to go until election day, ad spending for the presidential campaigns of President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney had reached a staggering $807 million, with some predicting it could near $1 billion by the time ballots are finally cast on Nov. 6. With both candidates professing their strong support for families on the campaign trail and in this month’s debates, we wondered how that $807 million might have been spent instead.This amount of money could:

1. Pay the salaries of 14,547 elementary school teachers for one year. 

How we did the math: The average salary for elementary school teachers is $55,270 as of May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

2. Send 14,835 high school seniors to a state university for four years, including room and board. 

How we did the math: The average cost of tuition, room, and board at public institutions for the 2010-2011 school year was $13,600, according to the National Center for Education Statistics; for four years, the total is $54,400.

3. Pay for 282 million school lunches—that’s a school year’s worth of lunches for 1.6 million students. 

How we did the math: The USDA reimburses schools $2.86 for each lunch served through the National School Lunch Program; public school years run for 180 days.

4. Cover a full year’s daycare costs for more than 84,769 families with an infant or more than 144,000 families with a preschooler .

How we did the math: 84,769 families with an infant at an average national cost of $9,520 per year, according to a 2012 study from Child Care Aware, or more than 144,000 families with a preschooler at a national average of $5,604 per year.

5. Buy a year’s worth of groceries for 89,707 families.

How we did the math: According to a July 2012 Gallup poll, households with children under 18 spend an average of $173 per week on groceries.

6. Fill the gas tanks of 194,000 families for one year. 

How we did the math: The average household spends about $342 per month on gas, according to a September 2012 stat from the Oil Price Information Service.

7. Provide three years’ worth of diapers to 291,125 families. 

How we did the math: The National Diaper Bank Network estimates the cost of diapers to be an average of $77 per month.