Parents, educators at odds over school bus ads
MARSHALL COUNTY, Ky. — By the end of this year, the big yellow bus might not be so yellow.
While federal standards require all school buses be painted in bright yellow for safety's sake, lawmakers in two Local 6 states want to cover some of that yellow with ads.
Right now, lawmakers in Kentucky and Missouri are considering this issue. Each state's bill is slightly different but share some things in common.
They don't allow ads to interfere with reflectors or flashing lights. They prohibit the promotion of alcohol, tobacco or sexually-oriented businesses. Also, no political ads are allowed.
On the surface, the advertising proposal doesn't seem that controversial, yet we found parents and administrators at odds over it. Parents, school leaders and lawmakers are all looking at this from different perspectives and have totally different opinions.
Some lawmakers want to give schools the authority to turn blank space into a money maker.
But school leaders like the superintendent at Marshall County Schools said it's not that simple and this proposed law puts your kids' safety at risk.
"My daughter's in a lot of after school activities and they're always starving for money," said parent Kevin Spraggs. "Any extra help, i don't see how it could hurt anything."
That was the predominant attitude among parents waiting on kids involved in extra curriculars at Marshall County High School.
"Anything that would raise revenue for the school system, i think is great," said one parent said.
"If it would go for funding on overlooked arts and educational things," said another.
Under the plan, the local districts have the option to place advertisements on buses and can spend the money they make however they'd like.
"The school districts have very few ways of generating revenue and so this might be a way to fund some of the programs," said State Rep. Brent Housman.
In Missouri, the bill allows for interior advertising above every other window.
In Kentucky, the bill has more restrictions and says the ads can only be placed on the outside below the window.
"My number one concern is going to be the safety of our students," said Marshall County Superintendent Trent Lovett.
Lovett said no matter where the mobile messages might be placed on the bus exterior, it's simply not safe. He worried the state might use a law like this as an excuse to keep cutting funding.
"That would be a way for them to say, 'Well we gave you the opportunity to sell ads on the sides of your school buses and you chose not to do that.''"
While parents do worry about ad content, Lovett said they need not fear because for his district, billboards on buses are an absolute last resort.
We spoke with a bunch of school superintendents throughout our area. All of them said the same thing Lovett said: they don't believe ads are safe and they dont like the plan.
Another thing you've got to consider is practically, consider our viewing area. So much of it is rural. While something like this might be a big money maker in Louisville or Lexington, local superintendents say not here.
Nine states allow advertising on school bus exteriors. Housman said schools in those states did not see an increase in accidents after they put ads on their buses.