Advertisers eager to begin pitching their wares aboard South Carolina’s public school buses are hoping that districts will participate in a program that would let them do so for a fee—as long as state lawmakers don’t throw up a roadblock.
The program, already put into place by the South Carolina Department of Education, could generate as much as $3.6 million for the state and participating school districts in its first year, estimates SAC Inc., the Warrenville, S.C.-based vendor picked to provide the advertising.
The ads would be “totally at [each district’s] discretion,” said Donald Tudor, the school transportation director for the state education department.
But until the legislature approves a proposal that would let the state share the revenue with participating districts, the program is unlikely to be picked up, said Mr. Tudor. Currently, the money generated from the ads could only go to the state—and legislation blocking any change already is pending.
Just as well, some activists say.
“Schools should not be trying to capture young consumers en route to class,” said Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a Washington-based public-interest group concerned with digital communications and advertising.
The state program allows ads to be placed inside buses, above the windows. Advertisers could include businesses, colleges, and the military, Mr. Tudor said.
The state also has already set restrictions: no tobacco products or alcoholic beverages, for example. Participating districts also would create oversight committees with authority to further restrict and approve ads.
But as a money-making venture, the program is far from a reality. A proposal to share revenue with school districts died in the state House of Representatives’ ways and means committee, and a bill pending in the state Senate would ban advertising on school buses.
“We have several options for modernizing and fully funding student transportation in South Carolina, … and we do not need to do it on the backs of our children,” said Sen. Greg Ryberg, a Republican and sponsor of the proposed ban, in a statement last week.
A version of this article appeared in the February 13, 2008 edition of Education Week