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Should school buses be used as rolling billboards for advertisers?

Those in support of the idea say it is a way to bring in revenue for schools amid increased inflation and a challenging economy.
Posted at 6:18 PM, Oct 05, 2023

A big yellow school bus is not easy to miss, and for good reason — it must safely transport students to and from school, logging serious miles on each route.

The Canyons School District in Utah says it has 185 school buses that each travel from 30 to 60 miles every day. So, with the visibility and sheer amount of time school buses are on the road, the district believes taking advantage of a law that allows its buses to become rolling billboards makes sense.

"It is a way to offset the effect of the economy and inflation and generate a little income," said Jeremy Wardle, director of transportation for the district.

In 2011, then-Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill into law allowing the state's school districts to sell advertising space on the exterior of school buses, but with a few guidelines: No alcohol, drugs or gambling ads, and nothing political or containing sexual or suggestive content. 

"It's a way for our business partners or local companies and organizations to find creative ways to get the word out about their goods and services, and ally themselves with the mission and the value of public education," said Kirsten Stewart, associate director of communications for Canyons School District.

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Brianna Coppage said she started the account as a way to support her household in addition to her salary as a teacher.


As the popularity of school bus advertising grows, Stewart says any money made off the ads stays within the transportation department in Utah and keeps more money in classrooms. 

"We're not looking at this as really a money maker, but you know if it generates revenue for the school district in a way that doesn't add an extra burden to our tax paying patrons then it's a win," said Stewart.

It's a concept that might not necessarily be widespread outside of this Utah school district, but it does appear to be a growing trend in the U.S.

The California-based group National Outdoor Media said school bus advertisements target specific demographics, and said typical school bus routes tend to remain in suburban areas. The organization sells the idea of buying advertisements on school buses because they say the ads are seen by many people, apart from just parents and school children. 

The group Blue Line Media already promotes its businesses of facilitating the sale of advertisements for city buses, like in the Washington, D.C.-metro area. Its advertisements have included messages from the Embassy of Nepal to promote tourism in that country, and other messages of interest to the local area. 

This story was originally published by Kelly Chapman at Scripps News Salt Lake City, with additional reporting from Douglas Jones of Scripps News.