TRENTON, N.J. — A bill that would allow school districts statewide to place advertisements on the exterior sides of their buses is advancing in the state Legislature, having passed out of the Assembly Education Committee on Thursday.
Under A1637, the board of education of any school district can enter into a contract to sell advertising space on school buses owned or leased by the district.
Advertisements for tobacco or alcohol products or for political advocacy would be prohibited, as would any other advertisements for products or services or by sponsors that the commissioner of education deems inappropriate. All advertisements would require prior approval by the local board of education.
Moreover, 50 percent of any revenue generated by the sale would be used by the board to offset the cost of fuel for providing pupil transportation services. The remaining 50 percent of the revenue would be used to support any programs and services the board deems appropriate.
The commissioner of education would evaluate the impact of school bus advertising and report on the evaluation to the governor and to the Legislature no later than one year following the effective date of the legislation and annually thereafter. The report would include the number of school districts which permit the advertising and the fiscal benefits derived from it.
The Associated Press (AP) reports that Republican assembly members who sponsored the bill, along with officials at some school districts, feel that the bill would benefit the state’s cash-strapped schools (Gov. Chris Christie cut aid to schools by $812 million this year) and are pushing for support of the bill.
"School boards are facing enormous pressure to maintain standards and services with significantly less financial resources than last year," Scott Rudder, who is one of the bill’s sponsors, testified at a hearing before the Assembly Education Committee. "This legislation will provide school districts with an opportunity to derive revenues from a new source and help to offset the impact of reduced state aid."
Bryan McGair, an assistant superintendent in Medford Township, wrote to the panel urging its support of the legislation, AP reports.
"Now, more than ever, is the time to remove some of the revenue shackles from local school districts in order for us to truly generate sustainable alternative revenues to support all aspects of our school program," McGair wrote. "Being permitted to sell advertising space on 70 district owned buses is projected to generate $350,000 annually for the Medford Schools. This equates to 1.5 to 2 cents on the tax rate each year."