School districts across the country are facing widening budget deficits, and some are adopting an unusual strategy to raise extra money: Selling advertising space on school buses. Critics say this is a bad idea, because kids are particularly susceptible to ads, particularly those touting junk food. But administrators say they're careful to weed out inappropriate pitches, and that the hundreds of thousands of dollars these ads bring in are a critical new source of revenue. Are the schools just being practical, or are they exploiting children?
If this keeps schools running, great: "I'm all for creative fundraising," says Meredith Carroll at Babble, "particularly if it means that teachers can keep their jobs and kids can keep their activities." Yes, school districts will need to "draw strict guidelines about who can and can't advertise." But better to cover buses in ads than fire dozens of teachers.
"Is school bus advertising the next big thing, or the next bad thing?"
But it sends such a bad message to kids: On paper, this sounds like a "win, win, win" proposition, says Jill L. Reed at the Orange County Register. Some districts will use the money from selling ads on buses to avoid teacher layoffs, while others will use it to pay for putting seatbelts on old buses. But the downside is what might be in the ads. How can we expect kids to listen when we tell them to eat healthy foods when we send them to school "in a bus featuring an ad for cheap pizza"?
"Can school-bus ads drive revenue for districts?"
It's too late to keep ads out of schools: "Ads in schools are nothing new," says Donn Perez Fresard at Minyanville. Kids watch commercials for acne wash on Channel One News, which is broadcast into classrooms. Some districts plaster lockers with ads. And everyone from the coal industry to egg farmers have tried to get plugs for their products into textbooks. Like it or not, buses pushing Subway's $5 footlong are "the future of public school financing."
"State funding slashed, schools slap fast food ads on buses"