School Budget ABCs: Ads Plus Bus Equal Cash More cities and states are turning to display ads on the sides of school buses for extra revenue. Colorado was one of the first states to allow it. Some parents are worried about the messages children receive from the ads.
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School Budget ABCs: Ads Plus Bus Equal Cash

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School Budget ABCs: Ads Plus Bus Equal Cash

School Budget ABCs: Ads Plus Bus Equal Cash

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Grace Hood from member station KUNC reports on the debate in Colorado.

GRACE HOOD: Half a dozen parents in Greeley, Colorado are sitting in their cars, waiting for a yellow bus to deliver their elementary kids. Starting next school year, parent Stan Whittaker will see ads and logos when the bus pulls up.

STAN WHITTAKER: We have to be kind of streetwise, where we have to find different ways to make money and to survive.

HOOD: But dad Shane Gabriel isn't happy.

SHANE GABRIEL: It's a bad thing.

HOOD: Why?

GABRIEL: Because you're using the kids to make money.

HOOD: With revenues down and little hope for raising taxes, the school district's Wayne Eads is hoping that kids simply won't notice.

WAYNE EADS: It is external advertising on the outside of busses, so kids basically won't see it except as the bus drives by.

HOOD: Unidentified Man: Two minutes - two minutes, and we'll bring it back and discuss.

HOOD: Unidentified Man: Does anyone here ride a bus that has advertising on it? What products do they actually advertise? Dan?

DAN: Unidentified Man: Okay. Okay. Restaurants. Okay, what else?

HOOD: But Pizza Hut doesn't actually advertise on busses. What he's seen are one-by-four foot ads for Domino's. In fact, no student could remember any actual advertisers. And that's why Elaine Naleski, with the Colorado Springs School District, says she recommends the practice to others. In good times, the money goes for extras like band equipment. In bad times, the money goes to the general fund.

ELAINE NALESKI: Kids don't really notice them. I don't think the advertisers like hearing that, but they don't really notice them.

JOSH GOLIN: Teaching children that things we own is what defines us and is going to make us happy is not a lesson that's good to teach kids in - particularly in schools.

HOOD: Josh Golin is with the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood. He says these ads lead kids to be more materialistic. And he points to South Carolina, which banned them.

SCOTT LAWRENCE: We base our advertising on reach and coverage.

HOOD: Scott Lawrence works for an ad agency representing the Southern Colorado tourist destination Royal Gorge Bridge and Park. He says the ads are targeted at young families and baby boomers, not kids.

LAWRENCE: School bus advertising gave us a unique opportunity to get some coverage in areas that we couldn't normally get.

HOOD: Meaning into residential neighborhoods that typically don't allow billboards.


HOOD: Back in Colorado Springs, Susan Callan is standing outside North Middle School, waiting for her son's basketball game to start. Even though the ads have been up for almost two decades here, she says she's never noticed them.

SUSAN CALLAN: It's more important to have the busses running than it is to worry about that advertisement, I think.

HOOD: For NPR News, I'm Grace Hood.

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