Ads on school buses are not the way Utah schools should be paying the costs of educating schoolchildren in the Beehive State.
There are untapped revenue sources the Legislature should consider, including collecting severance tax from coal mines, just as with other extractive industries, and Gov. Gary Herbert's sound suggestion to change from an annual to a quarterly collection of income taxes from self-employed taxpayers.
Reforming the income tax system so that families do not get deductions for more than two children is the most appropriate and fair way to increase revenue for public education. That would require the couples who choose to have large families to pay their fair share to educate them.
The problem is that conservative legislators who run the law-making arm of government in this state will not consider taking those sensible steps, and schools are being backed into a financial corner after public-school funding was shortchanged even more than usual during the recent recession and afterward. In light of that reality, Jordan School District should not be criticized for collecting what it can by selling advertising space on school buses.
District officials say they've collected $35,000 from ads on buses in the first six months of the program, which was approved by the Legislature in 2011.
Two other Utah school districts may follow Jordan into the advertising game to help provide the fuel and vehicles children need to get to school without raising taxes. Jordan's transportation director says he expects his district will collect more in revenue this year with ads on more than the 20 that currently carry them.
The law limits ads to no more than 35 percent of the sides of buses. Some subject matter is rightly prohibited: 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.
In the Jordan district, ads must "support and reflect the values of Jordan School District" and can't push any religious organization or promote other school districts, charter schools or private schools. An ad from Parents Empowered that focuses on the danger of underage drinking is a good example of the type of ad that is appropriate.
It's sad that districts are compelled to peddle ad space to make ends meet. Children are already deluged with ads, and schools already sell space on scoreboards and vending machines. But schools have to pay the bills, and the Legislature has proven they can't count on our representatives to do it.