School Bus Advertising

Advertising could soon be coming to a school bus near you. A divided State Senate Committee in Tallahassee narrowly approved a measure allowing some advertising on school buses Monday. Even the bill’s sponsor considers the move a drastic response to a sour economy.

Traditional yellow school buses could become rolling billboards under legislation that has cleared a State Senate Committee. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Bill Montford of Tallahassee, acknowledges the move is drastic. “I like yellow school buses, but I also like other programs. I like teacher aides in schools.”

The committee was deeply divided. Lizbeth Benaquisto, a Ft. Myers Republican, is not happy about the idea. “The push of consumerism on our children is in this context a step I’m not willing to take.”

A retired first grade teacher, Donna Sanford, made the trip to try and let the air out of the idea. “It’s hauling our most precious cargo...We’re going to degrade the bus, and it’s going to cause accidents and it’s going to cause heartache.”

The bill was doomed to failure until one opponent switched to a yes vote to keep the idea alive. Critics worry that this safety message might get replaced by a corporate ad. And that drivers may pay more attention to that add then the flashing red light.

The market would determine how much ads might sell for, but one estimate is that medium to large districts could make two million a year. And while the sponsor concedes the idea is drastic, Senator Montford says with declining funding, schools need options. “We’re in a desperate situation. We’re in a situation where we either cut programs, cut personnel, or we find other sources of revenue.”

Restrictions on who could advertise are contained in the legislation, but they are somewhat vague.

The same committee that approved the school bus advertising bill also agreed to allow two hundred fifty million dollars be used to send under privileged kids to private schools using money that would otherwise be paid into the state treasury.

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