August 15th, 2011

New NJ regulations could put ads on county school buses

Gloucester County Times

The New Jersey State Board of Education has drafted regulations to implement a new state law that allows advertising to be placed on the sides of school buses.

The regs bring the idea to the forefront for many county school districts.

Advertising on school buses has been suggested sporadically in recent years as a way to offset the rising costs of education. But many oppose the measure, arguing that advertising to school age children should be kept at a minimum and that ads would change the appearance of school buses.

A law passed in January allows boards of education to sell advertising space on the exterior of a school bus. The state board has now proposed regulations that detail how the law will be carried out.

“The state is taking a very measured approach. These seem to be pretty rational restrictions,” said Mike Yaple, spokesman for the New Jersey School Boards’ Association. “Typically, students couldn’t wear clothes to school that promoted drugs or alcohol, and certainly you wouldn’t want to see it on a school bus.”

The restrictions bar misleading, deceptive, disrespectful, fraudulent or libelous content, as well as obscene or vulgar language, illegal or sexual activity, and political, controversial or age-inappropriate material. They also require ads to be a fixed sign with paint, decals or magnetic material — without brackets — but without reflective, glittering or fluorescent colors, materials or lighting.

“Schools aren’t required to do this and in some communities they would not want to see ads on school buses, but in other communities they would expect the schools to do everything they can to reduce costs,” Yaple said.

For schools in Gloucester County, the discussion about advertising on school buses has been ongoing for well over a year. In Washington Township, board of education member Jim Murphy has been a strong proponent of utilizing ads since the discussion began and will push for it if they get the opportunity to do so.

“I think ‘Here’s a way of getting alternate revenue instead of putting the burden on taxpayers,’ ” he said. “If it’s done in a proper manner and done with safety in mind and proper wordage, I think it’s worth it.”

School bus ads are promoted as a way to increase revenue within a school board’s tight budget, possibly allowing them to add programs that may have been cut or keep programs and positions from being cut in the first place.

In Washington Township, Murphy believes that ads could help bring back the courtesy busing that had to be cut last year.

But the amount of money that bus advertising could actually generate has yet to be seen, and some districts are holding off on continuing the discussion until they see how it works for the braver schools.

At Delsea Regional School District, the board is not ready to take the plunge, opting to wait it out, according to Superintendent Piera Gravenor.

“In my mind it’s certainly a viable option for some income, but we’ll see where it goes for other districts,” she said. “I think school buses are yellow for a reason.”

The discussion is expected to continue with local school boards, but the reality of school bus ads is not expected before the school year begins next month.

“Given the financial distress we’re in and other schools are in, alternate funding is certainly something we would discuss, but it’s a delicate balancing act,” said Kingsway Regional School District Superintendent Jim Lavender. “Kingsway is waiting to hear from the state what the proper procedures are.”

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