School Bus Ads: Good Use of Space, or Crass Commercialization?
Facing a combined budget deficit of more than $100 billion for fiscal year 2012, a lot of states are cutting education budgets to make ends meet: laying off teachers, reducing hours and services. But recently, a handful of states have found a creative way to raise revenue from public education by putting advertisements on school buses.
Seven states, the latest being New Jersey, now allow school districts to sell ads on the sides of public school buses. Florida is currently considering it. So is Guam apparently. There are even two companies, Alpha Media and Steep Creek Media (both in Texas), that specialize in nothing but school bus advertisements. Note to Steep Creek Media: you may want to lead with something other than a Little Caesars pizza ad on your home page. Getting healthier food into public school cafeterias is kind of a big topic these days. Anyway, an executive at Alpha Media tells the Philadelphia Inquirer that a school district with 150 buses can make up to $500,000 over four years by selling ads.
A quick Internet search shows local school boards all over the country considering selling ads on their school buses. But it also uncovers a similar pattern of news stories about cash-strapped school districts selling ads on school buses back in 1994. This New York Times piece highlights a school district in Colorado that plastered its buses with ads from Burger King and 7-11 to help supplement a $133 million budget. While I can understand why some parents might not be in favor of this, if putting ads on yellow school buses means a few teachers get to keep their jobs, it seems like an OK decision. But do the ads always have to be for things like fast food and convenience stores?
What do you think?