Legislation would allow ads on school buses
Albany, NY – A proposal in the New York State Legislature would make it possible for school districts across the state to bring in revenue in an unconventional way. WAMC's Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Greg Fry reports...
Bills sponsored by State Senator Mark Grisanti and Assemblyman Steve Engelbright would allow the board of education in any school district in New York to enter into an agreement to allow for advertising on the outside of school buses. All advertisements would require the approval of that district's board, and the money collected as part of the agreement would go to the district.
Objection to the plan comes from the New York State Association for Pupil Transportation. Executive Director Peter Mannella says there's a reason a school bus is yellow, and doesn't have any ads on it. He says ads could contribute to driver distraction, and could put students and drivers at risk.
Mannella has had conversations with sponsors of the legislation. He says he understands the problems districts are facing - tighter budgets, less state revenue, and a need to pay the bills. Mannella says the proposal is financially driven. He doesn't believe anyone inherently wants to put ads on school buses.
Earlier this year, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed off on a measure allowing advertisements on school buses. Josh Golin is the Associate Director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. He's concerned about the safety issues, but also about the idea itself. Golin says the students are a captive audience, and will have no choice but to see the ads. He says schools aren't considering that while collecting a small amount of revenue, they'll be doing so while selling out their students.
Both bills stipulate that the provisions do not apply to cities with a population of one million or more. In larger cities, students of all ages ride public transportation with ads plastered on the side of buses and trains. Golin says there are clear differences. He says this will give advertisers the opportunity to micro-target students, and target their messages directly, unlike public transportation, where ads are targeted at a general audience.
The bills also ban tobacco and alcohol ads, along with political ads. Mannella says this is a new phenomenon, without a lot of research. He's concerned that the state might do something when the potential risks aren't known.