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Public Citizen to Two New Jersey School Boards: School Bus Advertising Is the Wrong Way to Raise Revenue

Oct. 10, 2012 

Public Citizen to Two New Jersey School Boards: School Bus Advertising Is the Wrong Way to Raise Revenue

Lyndhurst, North Arlington School Districts Shouldn’t Put Ads on Buses; Doing So Can Harm Children

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Lyndhurst and North Arlington School Districts should not move forward with plans to sell commercial advertising space on their school buses, Public Citizen said in letters sent to North Arlington School District Board of Education President Joseph Ricciardelli and Lyndhurst School District Board of Education President Ellen Young.

Pursuing this path would raise little revenue and would undermine the school boards’ educational missions, Public Citizen wrote.
“Corporations that market to children exploit the challenges kids face as they develop their identities,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “School system advertising schemes teach children that they should build their identities and judge their peers based on what they have, rather than on who they are. Children need a sanctuary from a world where everything seems to be for sale.”

Added Elizabeth Ben-Ishai, campaign coordinator for Public Citizen’s Commercial Alert project, “Schools ought to foster open discussion and critical thinking. But these values run directly counter to the aims of advertisers, who seek to turn children into a new generation of consumers.”

New Jersey has been moving toward greater adoption of school advertising since the passage of a law in 2011 allowing such activity. Guidelines established by the New Jersey Board of Education, which prohibit ads for alcohol, tobacco and gambling, still leave open the opportunity for junk food makers and fast food restaurants to advertise.

School districts across the country that have adopted school bus advertising schemes have allowed advertisers to market products that are unhealthful and inappropriate for children. Even those schools that adopt guidelines to limit the types of advertising they accept often allow ads for products that undermine student health and well-being. School boards are under extreme financial pressures, but commercial advertising on school buses should not be seen as a solution. Public Citizen’s report – “School Commercialism: High Costs, Low Revenues,” released in February and available at http://www.commercialalert.org/PDFs/SchoolCommercialismReport_PC.pdf – shows that in some of the largest districts in the country, school advertising schemes generate less than 0.05 percent of the districts’ annual budgets.

Weighed against the harms of school commercialism, the financial benefits of in-school advertising are miniscule, Public Citizen maintains. Given the relatively insignificant revenues that such advertising is likely to bring to the districts’ schools, the risks are not worth it for these New Jersey students.

To read the letter, visit http://www.commercialalert.org/news/news-releases/2012/10/commercial-alert-to-two-new-jersey-school-districts-dont-allow-ads-on-school-buses.