As school districts across the U.S. cut costs, selling advertisements on buses is being considered by more districts as a way to generate revenue. Opponents argue that little revenue is raised and keeping unwanted ads off buses may not be easy.
ABC News reports that dozens of states, including Minnesota, Arizona, and Texas, already permit school bus advertising. According to the article, “The idea can be traced back about 15 years, but budget woes have led to a recent resurgence.”
Lawmakers in states like Washington, Utah, New Jersey and Ohio are now considering placing advertisements on buses.
John Green, supervisor for school transportation at the California Department of Education, notes, however, that there are arguments against this fundraising method. Green was quoted as saying:
Bus ads are rarely as lucrative as the school district expects, they may distract drivers and lead to accidents, and keeping unwanted ads off buses may not be as easy as people think.
The highway authority in Southern California, for example, must now allow a Minuteman militia group to adopt a highway and put a sign on the freeway after a “judge decided the case on first Amendment issues.”
Melissa Reeves, spokeswoman for Jefferson County Schools, the largest district in Colorado, says the district “has a three-year contract with First Bank of Colorado that is worth about $500,000 over four years.” This contract also allows First Bank of Colorado to be prominently displayed on the district Web page, in district stadiums, and in every high school gym.
Green asks, however, "Why not just have the teachers wear a uniform similar to NASCAR drivers?" Even though that's kind of a joke, my point is, why do they single out the school bus? Why not paint a billboard alongside the school?"
The issue was recently raised in the Washington legislature by Sen. Paull Shin (D-Seattle). Shin’s bill failed.
As reported in Kidglue, Josh Colin, associate director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, said, “Parents who are concerned about commercial messages will have no choice. Parents won’t be given the option to send their kids on the ad-free bus.”
Mike Griffith, a policy analyst for the Education Commission of the States, states that “The Jefferson County deal with First Bank amounts to $7 a bus per day – just a fraction of the districts $959 million budget.”
Further, Griffith contends, “most districts actually have to hire someone new to sell their new ad space,” which “usually cuts profits enough to discourage adopting the policy.”