School districts have imposed all sorts of drastic cuts to save money during the down economy, reports the Associated Press—and some have now resorted to placing advertisements on school buses. School districts say it’s practically free money, and advertisers love the captive audience that school buses provide. That’s the problem, say opponents: Children are being forced to travel to school on moving media kiosks, and the tactic isn’t much different than dressing teachers in sponsor-emblazoned uniforms. “Parents who are concerned about commercial messages will have no choice,” said Josh Golin, associate director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. “Parents won’t be given the option to send their kids on the ad-free bus.” Washington lawmakers considered the idea of school bus advertising this year, and the concept is also being tossed around in Ohio, New Jersey, and Utah. About half a dozen states already allow bus advertising, including Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Texas. The idea can be traced back about 15 years, but budget woes have led to a recent resurgence.

“This issue comes up on a regular basis when funding gets tight and people are looking for alternative ways to fund school transportation,” said John Green, supervisor for school transportation at the California Department of Education. Green has a long list of reasons California has not sold ads on its school buses. He says bus ads are rarely as lucrative as the school district expects, and keeping unwanted ads off buses might not be as easy as people think…

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staff and wire services reports