Lawmaker pushes for advertising on school buses - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Lawmaker pushes for advertising on school buses

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) -- A Kentucky lawmaker is pushing a proposal that would allow school districts to sell advertising space on the sides of buses.

"I think it would be something that would be pretty popular in a larger district," said state Rep. Brad Montell, R-Shelbyville. "If you can generate some revenue like this without disturbing anything, why not?"

Montell said he intends to file a bill when the Legislature convenes to allow the ads as long as they don't interfere with reflecting material or warning equipment and are placed below the bottom of the windows on the section of bus between the front and back wheels.

He said his proposal will bar advertisements promoting alcohol, tobacco or politics on buses.

Most states don't allow exterior advertising on school buses, but a handful, including Colorado, Tennessee and Texas, have had good results.

Colorado Springs School District 11 was one of the first in the nation to allow ads on its buses in 1993. District spokeswoman Elaine Naleski said the district was struggling at the time to find revenue sources.

"Our superintendent went to the business community for advice, and they told him that we have to think entrepreneurially," Naleski said.

Naleski said school bus advertising has generated more than $150,000 annually.

"We mainly give the money to schools for things like buying band instruments," Naleski said. "It's just an added bonus for the schools."

The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services opposes advertising on buses, fearing it could be a distraction to drivers.

"Our concern is safety," said Bob Riley, executive director of the organization. "A yellow school bus with the black markings is very noticeable to the public - it's iconic in nature. We're concerned that advertisements, which are there to catch people's eyes, could take away from that."

The Kentucky Department of Education hasn't taken a position on Montell's proposal.

"I'm sure our transportation department will look at it very closely," said spokeswoman Lisa Gross.

Some Kentucky school superintendents are giving the proposal careful consideration.

"I would not be opposed to exploring it with the understanding that safety is the first priority," said Campbell County Superintendent Anthony Strong. "And I would like our board to have control over it."

While one of Montell's stipulations is that the "local board shall determine the length and terms of advertising contracts," Kenton County Superintendent Tim Hanner would like more restrictions than just tobacco, alcohol and political signs.

"There are things out there that don't fall into those categories that are not safe and are irresponsible," Hanner said. "I'd like to see this explored a whole lot more, even if it means conducting a study on where else it's been done in the country and what the effects have been."

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