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NJ permits ads on school buses, what’s next?

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

EDITORIAL: Here’s a gimmick the “Mad Men” would love: Don’t cancel field trips or reach deeper into taxpayers’ pockets — advertise on school buses! It’s now law in New Jersey, so expect to see the buses carrying not only precious cargo but pitches for products and services, too. Ah, but who chooses and buys the ads and what happens when any are deemed offensive?

Your ad (our ours) here

In these economic times, it’s tough to say no to free money. Advertisers will pounce, given the captive audience. Bake sales will become quaint memories.

“This law is designed to increase revenue for school districts to provide needed services,” said Assemblywomen Connie Wagner (D-Bergen). “With schools everywhere at a loss for state aid, and cuts being felt as classes get underway again, this is an easy way for schools to generate additional revenue to help keep programs running and activity fees to a minimum.”

But what if the ads distract other drivers? And although tobacco, alcohol or political ads are banned,  what is parents or teachers find certain ads objectionable? Under our fine constitution, it could be tough including some and excluding others without what could become costly legal battles.

Jerry DeMarco Publisher/Editor

And I’ll bet you haven’t even considered this one: Someone’s going to have to solicit those ads. THERE’S a new position, with salary and benefits — unless a district sub-contracts the job, which still means spending money.

The ads were only a matter of time, really. In their designer duds, the kids already are walking advertisements. Now school districts can get a piece of the action — by going mobile.

It’s already happened in Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Tennessee and Texas. Ohio and Utah are considering hopping on the proverbial brandwagon.

Parents unwilling to swallow it are being reminded of the potential for cutting their taxes. The law will require half of any revenue generated by the sale be used to offset the fuel costsand half to support programs and services the particular district “deems appropriate.”

Whoa. What if a district deems it “appropriate” to create a “confidential secretary” position for the mayor’s nephew?

Controls seem somewhat loose on what could be a major money-maker. And it could mean big bucks: Look at Jefferson County, which has Colorado’s largest school district: The Bank of Colorado has a four-year deal worth $500,000 for bus ads.

That’s a lot field trips.

“Parents who are concerned about commercial messages will have no choice,” said Josh Golin, associate director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. “Parents won’t be given the option to send their kids on the ad-free bus.”

What’s next? Gym ads already are accepted. Maybe backpacks, textbooks — even the dais and podiums at School Board meetings — could carry ads. How about billboards on the sides of school buildings, or how about NASCAR-like uniforms for teachers, custodials, cafeteria workers and other school personnel?

“Hello, this is Dunkin’ Donuts Regional School District. May I help you?”

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