Ads may roll out on N.J. school buses

    After Assembly approves bill allowing advertising on school buses, measure moves to state Senate. Ad revenue would help plug gaps left by state budget cuts.

    By Meggan Kole

    If the New Jersey Senate concurs with the state Assembly, school buses in the Garden State may soon resemble rolling billboards.

    Lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow advertising on the sides of school buses. Each district would be able to regulate what kind of ads would appear on its buses, but political ads and any promoting tobacco and alcohol would be off-limits.

    Massive cuts totaling more than $800 million forced widespread cancellation of programs and activities throughout the state’s school districts.

    Frank Belluscio of the School Board Association said allowing bus ads is not the solution, but it will help.

    “There is significant interest in finding alternative means of income for the school districts and this is one option,” said Belluscio. “And I have to stress the word option, because it would be up to the local school board to decide whether or not they permit the advertising on school buses.”

    But some wonder if a plan to raise money for New Jersey school districts will cause more harm than good.

    Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood works to limit marketers’ access to children. She understands schools are strapped for cash but says advertising on buses makes kids more materialistic.

    “Everything that the school advertises has that school’s implicit endorsement,” said Linn. “And so, by extension then, whatever is being advertised, in a child’s mind, must be good for them as well because their school supports it.”

    The New Jersey School Board Association says the ads on the outside of the bus would target drivers and not the children.

    The bill, unanimously passed in the Assembly, requires that half of any ad revenue be used to offset fuel and transportation costs. The other half can be used for activities or supplies.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.