High school and elementary students in the Parkland School District are going to see advertisements inside their school buses.
The Parkland School Board voted 7-1 on Tuesday night to sell ad space inside 46 of the district's 96 school buses, a move that is expected to generate $150,000 for the district.
If the pilot program is successful, it will be expanded to the district's full fleet, generating twice the revenue, officials said.
"We're going to walk before we run," said Superintendent Richard Sniscak after the meeting. "We want to do it right."
The move has its critics.
Board member Robert Cohen, who cast the lone vote against the proposal, reiterated earlier concerns that the advertising would be potentially insidious. "We're here to educate," he said, adding that the ads would intrude on that mission.
Board member Roberta Marcus countered that the district already has advertising support in its school calendar and newsletters and on its football stadium scoreboard to offset costs. She said the advertising revenue from the bus ads would benefit educational programs that the district is trying to maintain.
"I don't want to have to do this," she said before the vote, but added that alternative revenue streams are needed to help keep educational programs in place.
Though other districts in the state have ads on school property, the Parkland School District is believed to be the first district in the state to sell ad space inside its buses as a way to generate revenue.
The school board had been prepared to vote last month on the proposal, which also sets up an ad review committee and establishes a contract with the Factory advertising design company in Schnecksville. However, the vote was tabled on a 5-3 vote after two residents and board member Cohen raised concerns.
The district's buildings and grounds committee last week decided to send the initiative back to the full board.
Under the initiative, the ad company would develop ads geared toward health, nutrition, higher education, safety and recreational opportunities, district officials have said. Sniscak said there has been some interest from those in higher education.
The residents who raised initial concerns about the ad proposal again voiced their concerns to the board on Tuesday night:
* Resident David Parsons, in urging a "no" vote, said his initial concerns -- about the controls that would be used to assure appropriate ads -- had not been addressed. He said the district's review plan is lean, especially when compared with proposals from other entities.
* Resident Andrew Bench, who noted he is not a lawyer, questioned whether the initiative would withstand a constitutional challenge to freedom of speech, since the district would be restricting the content of the ads.
Board member Mark Hanichak asked whether the district had aired such questions about constitutionality. Solicitor Steven Miller said that while he cannot guarantee that the initiative won't be challenged in court, he believes that the initiative is OK from a constitutional standpoint after having researched prior case law.
As part of the program:
* The bus ads will be made of a magnetic material and posted along the inside roofline of the buses, just above the windows, according to a release. The signs will be secured and covered with a clear plastic material to prevent vandalism.
* Parkand will receive 75 percent of the commission and the consulting company will receive 25 percent. Factory Advertising will handle sales, while the district will approve the ads and install the signs.
* The pilot program will have 16 sign opportunities. The ads would go inside buses for the high school, but since the district has shared runs, the buses also go to elementary schools, officials said. If the program is expanded, the ads will be in buses to the middle schools and parochial schools as well.