Students To Be Exploited For Revenue?

(8) The state board of education shall promulgate rules authorizing local boards of trustees to sell advertising space on school buses. Such rules shall provide for the safe placement of such advertising and shall provide for reasonable restrictions on advertising content.

Idaho’s Senate passed a bill (S1111) Tuesday that will allow advertising on school buses. Like many laws passed in Idaho, this one raises more questions than it provides answers. For instance, nothing in the language of the bill addresses the issue of private school bus companies posting ads on their buses and keeping the revenue.


We find it sad that in the zeal to find revenue, schools are indirectly using their students to raise money. Far from selling candy bard door-to-door, students need to ride buses will create mobile billboards worth hundreds of thousands of dollars if the Meridian School District’s claims are accurate. (In PASADENA California the schools netted only $15,000 off 250 buses over a two year period. The Meridian district owns the buses and they say as much as $750,000 could be raised from advertisers–although the legislation provides no guidelines as to where the money would go.

In fact, absent any rules to the contrary, the ad money could go to administrator bonuses, teacher salaries, sports, or field trips. Which begs the even bigger question: What about First Student, the private firm contracting with Boise School District or any other private carrier? A manager at First Student declined to talk with the GUARDIAN about the issue, saying they would follow the wishes of the Boise School District.

A spokesperson at the State Board refused comment as well saying, “We have not established a position on the bill.” If it passes, there won’t be any choice. The law will mandate that rules will come from the top down. Here are some items for the Board to consider if the bill makes it through the House:
–Will school districts need to hire “account execs to sell ads?”
–Will buses be billboards for condom ads (they teach sex ed in classes)?
–Do private carriers need permission of the district to sell ads?
–Will routes be set to get maximum exposure for ads?
–Will lighted signs like those of pizza delivery rigs be allowed?
–Will there be ratings periods for bus ads like TV “sweeps”?
–Will the State Board hire auditors to monitor ad content and direct the cash flow?

We can see the “naming rights” coming up next, based upon the success of high school athletic teams. Also, it won’t be long before the sharp ad sales execs come up with the idea of selling ad space on the INSIDE of the bus aimed at the kids.

Comments & Discussion

Comments are closed for this post.

  1. First Student is indeed an independent contractor, and beholden to nobody but their CEO. However, Boise School District has a contract with them to use their services to bus their students. It is the district that sets the terms of the contract. If Boise decided to sell bus space, they’d pay First Student through the nose for the privilege. Meaning, they would have to rent space from First Student in order to sell space to advertisers. Additionally, remember that First Student is first and foremost a business. They do contract work with people in the area other than the Boise School District. Their corporate offices would have to decide if abiding by their wishes would affect their other business ventures. Pay them enough though and they’ll do what you want. So in the end, just as with the local districts, it all comes down to money.

  2. My guess is that local districts will exercise that option cautiously at first as not to upset parents and taxpayers. The legislature seems to be grasping for every penny to be had including this, state park advertising and longer liquor store hours. At least the damage from this won’t be long term like the other education proposals.

  3. I can see it now drug advertisements for condoms, birth control pills, STD drugs.

    This is a terrible idea and needs to be vetoed by the guv.

  4. I think that some of the concerns about the bill are a bit overblown:
    -Districts will most likely send out RFPs for the ad business and choose the company that will generate the most revenue for the district.
    -The ads will have to be child appropriate, and the rules will define what appropriate is.
    -Districts will route buses to maximize efficiency because not doing so would cost them any of the new revenue they might receive from ad revenue.
    There are a number of other states that allow advertising on buses, and they have not experienced the concerns expressed here. Like the idea of ads on buses or not, this is a way to raise revenue without increasing taxes.

  5. You are worried about school buses? How about the computer they will get spammed on 24/7. I’d love to see who gets that special contract and for how much.

  6. What percentage of kids ride the bus anyway? I’ve heard they should have a cop on each bus to deal with our societal advancements.

  7. I think it’s a great idea and I fully support it.

  8. Once again the Luddites crawl out from under their rock to come up with reasons not to try something that has probably been done both successfully and controversially in hundreds of other locations around the country. Ohhhhh, what about the children?

  9. Back in the day 50’s/60’s we had to get to school the best way we could if we lived less than two miles from school. I ended up riding a bicycle as my parents could not afford the $0.40/day bus fare. It was uphill in the morning but what a ride going home.. i could actually stay up with the cars on my bike without a helmet.

    On days I did get to ride the bus (rain), the bus stop was several blocks from our home.

    Today we give kids a door to door ride for the most part. How all the busing of kids got so far out of hand is a mystery to me. Now we have discovered a new way to deliver a marketing message to the kids riding buses.

  10. Paul, the only helmets back then were leather and used in football.(I know, because I had one) I agree that we are coddling kids today, but this is a different time. We didn’t have to worry about some scumbag grabbing one of us either coming or going.
    I am having a tough time being negative on this issue. It seems as though being forced to cut spending, we also are not willing to explore ALL alternatives. The legislature,(that’s you Sen. Bock)wants to have cake and eat it without sharing. By the way, does anyone really believe that we are going to “can” over 700 teachers? Attrition will take care of that! Back in the day of the leather helmets, EVERY class had over 30 students. The teachers need to be stressing that we need to “head hunt” at the administrative level instead of the class room. We must consolidate school districts! That would be the biggest saving we could realize at this time.

  11. Grumpy ole guy
    Mar 2, 2011, 6:47 pm

    While I don’t see anything inherently wrong with this idea, it does seem to me that there ought to be some sort of restrictions – is this advertising to be inside or outside the bus? Shouldn’t there be some sort of “rule” about what % of the yellow must be visible to ensure safety, where do free speech and topic(s) of said advertising intersect – political campaign ads for School Board elections? Cigarette and alcoholic beverages? I think with appropriate regulation it might help a little, but really, it is just another excuse not to fund education at a level it should be funded.

  12. I hear Merck wants to put Viagra adds on a Boise school bus. Yay free markets, yay capitalism! Oh, and just wait for the Money Tree bus and the Tea Party Obamascare bus for Halloween!

  13. I was not going to weigh in on this but….. Now our student transportation can look like hippie vans of old. I only wonder when the adult shops choose to advertise on the buses; get told they cannot and then sue for their first amendment right to do so. I am sure we all will wait in breathless anticipation for that. Start saving now.

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