Discovering a novel way to generate money for schools, HB667 from Sen. James Forrester (R-Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln) represents a great way to think outside the fiscal box. By allowing advertisers to rent space on school buses (leaving safety equipment such as reflective surfaces or warning lights intact) local boards of education will be able to reliably raise revenue. Proceeds would go towards exemplary teacher bonuses as an incentive for teachers to stay.
Yet one must wonder how this will affect children. They are after all the ones who ride the bus every day, and the ones who will be most exposed to the advertisements. The bill bans tobacco, alcohol, religious, or political advertisements but that still leaves much of the advertising world open to these new markets. If surveys about television advertising are any indicator of who will advertise on the buses, it will be overwhelmingly unhealthy food.
Not only will this conflagrate the already increasing childhood obesity crisis facing the nation, but it also flies in the face of several pieces of legislation that were aimed at healthy lifestyles for children. For instance: HB 840 sought to promote healthy eating (down to measuring consumed sodium); HB 901 created honors classes promoting healthy living; and HB 1757 updated fitness testing in grades K-8. There are many, many more bills such as these that pass through the General Assembly every session, and such advertising would constantly work against them.
While this bill does not directly contradict the healthy lifestyle being promoted through the General Assembly, taken to its rational ends it is not hard to foresee this outcome. While this bill is a great way to generate funds for a good cause, its implications should be considered.