Public school officials scrounging for alternative sources of cash because of the state’s budget crisis are looking at options ranging from selling advertising on school buses to creating a rainy day education fund.
“With our budget, we can’t afford to turn up our noses,” said Jeff Weiler, chief financial officer for the Clark County School District. “We have to look at every possibility.”
One vendor already has approached the district about selling space on district vehicles for advertising, something that could bring in $1 million to $2 million, Weiler said.
In addition to school buses, the district’s 26 food service trucks could carry ads as well, Weiler said.
At a recent meeting, School Board members asked district staff to research the issue and bring it back to the board for discussion.
“It has got potential, (but) there are pros and cons,” acknowledged school board member Terri Janison.
One expert told the Review-Journal that school districts pursuing the advertising option have often been disappointed.
“They can’t seem to sell the advertising,” said Bob Riley, director of the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, based in Steamboat Springs, Colo.
For safety reasons, school districts that allow advertising almost always restrict it to the inside of the bus, he said.
School officials don’t want to obscure the distinctive yellow school bus by plastering it with ads like a Nascar race car.
But restricting advertising to the inside of the bus also poses moral questions about students’ rights, Riley said. Is it OK to turn students into a “captive audience” for advertisers?
School districts also must decide on what kinds of advertising to allow. “What if Trojan (condoms) wants to advertise?” Riley asked.
District officials also are considering the big picture of education funding in Nevada. On Monday, School Board members approved a legislative bill draft that, if approved, would create a rainy day fund, or a “stabilization” account, for education.
Joyce Haldeman, associate superintendent for community relations, called the bill a “truth in advertising” measure to protect state funds earmarked for education.
Now, once state officials determine how much to budget for education, excess revenue from taxes dedicated to funding education reverts back to the state’s general fund. Haldeman does not deny that the money is then used for worthwhile projects. But the funding is not going toward its intended use, she said.
She said “the guaranteed funding” is, in reality, a “guaranteed cut.”
Haldeman said $192 million in excess education funding was returned to the general fund in 2007. That could have mitigated this year’s budget crisis when tax collections dropped because of the economic downturn, forcing lawmakers to slash education funding.
The Clark County School District’s budget was reduced by $93.7 million this year. Overall, the district’s general budget of $2.2 billion for 2008-09 still represents an increase over the 2007-08 budget of $2.1 billion.
Contact reporter James Haug at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-799-2922.