Earlier this year, the Utah Legislature passed a law allowing school districts to sell advertisements on school buses to earn money to help cover rising transportation costs, including gasoline and buses. The law, championed by West Jordan Republican Jim Bird as a way to help Jordan and other cash-strapped districts, limits ads to the sides of buses and 35 percent of the exterior. And ads may not contain sexual material; activities and substances that are illegal for minors, such as tobacco and alcohol; political parties, candidates or issues; and graphics that resemble traffic-control devices.
To those rules Jordan added a few of its own. Promotions must "support and reflect the values of Jordan School District" and may not be for any religious organization or other school districts, charter schools or private schools.
Judi Clark, executive director of Parents for Choice in education, questioned the decision to forbid ads from educational organizations outside of Jordan district.
"We're talking about public school buses where public school students ride, and we're limiting access to other public school options," such as charter schools and online programs, Clark said in an interview. "The policy obviously takes into account things they feel would be inappropriate for children to be exposed to. Then there seems to be other items they are afraid of children being exposed to because it affects their bottom line."
Jordan plans to solicit bids to find a third-party contractor that would handle selling of school bus ads. Slogans could be appearing on school buses as soon as January, said Herb Jensen, the district's transportation director.
The Legislature's fiscal analyst estimated that statewide ads on school buses could generate $3.3 million for education, with ads selling for $750 to $1,500 a bus. Jordan has 234 buses.
In Granite, Davis, Salt Lake City and Canyons school districts, boards have not discussed selling school bus ads, which first requires a district adopting a formal policy. Alpine's board had considered placing ads on its buses to promote the district's own schools and buses but has decided not to pursue that plan.
"The decision was made that, right now, we aren't going to have anything on our school buses," Alpine spokeswoman Rhonda Bromley said in an interview Tuesday.
What the policy says
• Be age appropriate.
• Not promote any substance or activity that is illegal for minors, such as alcohol, tobacco or gambling.
• Not promote any political party, candidate or issue.
• Not promote sexual material of any kind.
• Not promote any religious organization.
• Not promote any competing educational organizations to include, but not limited to, charter schools, private schools or any other non-Jordan School District K-12 school entity.