The South Carolina Senate has added a proviso to next year's state budget that would allow local districts to make some extra money by selling ad space on their activity buses.
The decision would be up to each district, and they could have advertising only on activity buses, not the yellow school buses that take children to and from school. Activity buses take children on field trips and to sporting events.
Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, introduced the proviso. "I think local elected officials, such as school board members, they can make a good decision. We don't need to micromanage that decision at the state level," he says. He points out that the districts own the activity buses so they should be able to decide what to do with them. The state owns the yellow school buses.
The Rock Hill School District already sells advertising space on its service vehicles. Tony Cox, assistant superintendent for administrative services, says the ads have brought in about $25,000 so far, but once the program reaches its full potential could bring in up to $90,000 a year. That's enough to pay for one-and-a-half teachers' salaries, he says.
The district charges $4,800-5,000 for ad space on a full-sized cargo van, similar to a UPS truck. A smaller van, like an electrician's van or landscaping truck, goes for about $2,000 a year. The district adjusts the fee based on the vehicle's mileage, since they're basically rolling billboards.
Sen. Hayes says the proviso does have restrictions to prevent any kind of advertising that would be inappropriate for children, like ads for any kind of tobacco or alcohol.
He pictures the ads being on the outsides of the activity buses so they're aimed at the public, not the children, but says the proviso does allow for ads inside the buses, too.
Sen. Paul Thurmond, R-Charleston, objected to the proviso, saying it's wrong to commercialize what's supposed to be an educational environment. He thinks allowing ads on activity buses will be only the beginning.
"They start with the activity buses then go to the buses, maybe go to the school doors, maybe the school desks, the school pencils," he says. "I mean, there really is no end to this process, all in the name of trying to raise revenue."
Since this is a proviso in the Senate's version of the budget, the House would also have to go along for it to become law.
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