South Kitsap school officials respond to bus-advertising bill

Advertising on city buses is nothing new.

But State Senate Bill 6466, which was introduced Jan. 14 to help school districts obtain additional revenue through advertising on school buses, is generating debate.

South Kitsap School District board president Kathryn Simpson said there is a significant difference between city and school buses.

“They’re yellow for a reason,” she said. “I think (advertising is) a bad idea in terms of student safety.”

Simpson also does not favor advertising inside buses, which she said would directly target children.

“I would be very apprehensive about advertising on the inside of our bus from Corporate America,” she said.

According to the bill, any advertising inside or outside buses must be approved by each district’s board of directors.

Superintendent Dave LaRose worked in Arizona for several years — a state that allows advertising on school buses — before moving to Washington in 2004.

Earlier this month, assistant superintendent for business and support Terri Patton projected a $6 million to $7 million deficit for the 2010-11 school year, and LaRose said the district will have to remain open to several possibilities to close the shortfall.

“As a district, we would need to look at it not just fiscally, but philosophically,” he said. “What’s the impact in terms of the image of our organization? What’s the impact in terms of exposure for kids? There would be a lot of decisions that need to be made.”

According to the bill, advertising on buses would generate $175,000 per school district during the 2011 fiscal year.

“I won’t discredit anything that has the potential for generating revenue that could be dedicated back to the classroom and serving kids,” LaRose said. “I think in this economy we need to look at all of those, but I think part of the lens is that we never minimize our mission and our purpose for kids.”

Simpson said she would only consider authorizing bus advertising if the state finds a safe area on the bus to place it, pays for all related expenses and fully funds basic transportation. She said the latter would reduce SKSD’s levy need by $1.27 million this school year.

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