Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Let School Bus Ads Roll into Junkyard of Bad Ideas

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Let School Bus Ads Roll into Junkyard of Bad Ideas

Article excerpt

Byline: Tonyaa Weathersbee, Times-Union columnist

At first, the notion struck me as being tacky.

Last week, a state House committee approved a bill that would, if passed, clear the way for desperate school districts to allow companies to transform yellow buses into billboards. Meaning that, in some counties, ads for Coca-Cola, Taco Bell and other icons of consumer culture could bombard students' minds as they board their buses first thing in the morning.

As if they need more of that.

The House sponsor of the bill, Rep. Mike Haridopoulos, a Melbourne Republican, regards the move as a way for school districts shackled by dwindling revenues to raise money without having to raise hackles about more taxes. The solace he underscores this with is that districts would control the size of the ads.

Great. How long, I wonder, will it take for a struggling district to cave in to an advertiser who will give it more money to paint an entire side of the bus with its slogans and colors, vs. settling for a decal near the emergency exit? How long will it be before some companies get naming rights to the buses? How long before some school district will be scrubbing off the logos of a company that has deteriorated into another Enron?

Hard to say.

Yet my problem with this bill isn't just about the potential for bad bus aesthetics or pileups caused by drivers distracted by the newest soda slogan. There already are a number of mind-dulling advertisements that mar the scenery along many school bus routes.

What I do have a problem with is when school districts get in on the act as well by exploiting students under the guise of educating them. And anytime unabashed commercialism creeps closer to schools -- to places that ought to be atmospheres for analysis and not acquiescence -- then the door creaks a little wider for that exploitation.

That's a troubling thought.

Children have become big business in America. According to research from the Center for Media Education, a Washington organization that, among other things, tracks the influence of media on children, corporations spend more than $12 billion annually to market to them. …

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