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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Fla. House Education Committee approves school bus ads bill

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House of Representatives Education Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would allow school districts to put commercial advertisements on school buses.

CS/HB 19, put forth by Reps. Bryan Nelson (R-Apopka) and Irving Slosberg (D-Boca Raton), proposes the use of 2-by-6 foot commercial ads on the sides of buses as a tax-free, fee-free source of revenue for school boards.

Nelson said the ads could generate up to $2 million a year just in Orange County, the district he represents.

School boards would have the power to regulate the content of the advertisements, which, Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach) said, should remain family-friendly because of their placement.

The 14 representatives who voted in favor of the measure touted the bill as a way to increase money flow to schools without raising taxes or adjusting the state's budget.

"This is a way to think outside the box," Rep. Martin Kiar (D-Davie) said.

Opponents of the bill countered that the ads could be distracting to drivers and will bombard students with consumerist messages, although Rep. Erik Fresen (R-Miami) said he doubts the ads will affect students any more than the "please sit quietly" signs inside the buses.

Rep. Dwight Bullard (D-Miami) said pitching the use of advertisements to try to fill the state's revenue void creates a slippery slope toward more and more commercial messages in schools.

Furthermore, it might not be efficient. The revenue created by school bus ads will essentially cover fuel costs for public school transportation, he said.

"As we're talking about eliminating art and music programs and we're seeing shrinking marching bands who can't afford to replace instruments, we need to start taking a more proactive look at how to better fund schools in the state of Florida," Bullard said. "This is a drop in the bucket."

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