Districts could put paid ads on school buses

State lawmakers discussing pilot program

INDIANAPOLIS - Cash-strapped school districts could soon have a new way to raise money. The wheels are turning at the Statehouse to allow paid ads on the side of school buses.

State lawmakers said the ads would be safe and age-appropriate. They are discussing a pilot program to test out the idea of the "rolling billboards" in three local school districts.

Like many other districts in Indiana, the administrators at Beech Grove City Schools are learning to do more with less.

Superintendent Paul Kaiser said a drop in property values is cutting $3 million from his budget each year.

A referendum is helping to bridge the gap, but transportation is taking the largest hit.

"We've eliminated field trips, most field trips, and the ones we do have, parents have to pay for, that becomes a challenge for many of our parents," Kaiser said.

Beech Grove is one of the three school districts that the state is considering for the pilot program to allow paid ads on buses. The Franklin Township Community School Corporation and Zionsville Community Schools are also part of the pilot program.

The ads are estimated to bring in about $1,000 per bus each year. With 31 buses in Beech Grove, Kaiser said the money could make a difference.

"So many of our parents work countless hours and do not have the financial resources to put out $65 to $70 to go out on an extended field trip," Kaiser said.

Eleven other states have given the green light to putting ads on school buses, including Arizona.

The bill’s sponsor said buses are one more avenue for revenue.

"This is not a new idea. There are already football fields and stadiums; you may see Pepsi Cola or Coca Cola on a sign," Sen. Patricia Miller, R-Indianapolis, said.

The ads would be painted or attached by decal and would be required not to distract other drivers from the bus’ stop arm.

"We think this is a great opportunity to set up a multitude of enrichment opportunities for our kids that we could never take before because we never had the resources," Kaiser said.

Before anything is placed on the buses, a state committee would need to approve the ad.

The Senate approved the idea and it now heads to the House for consideration.

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