As the free-market siege of government intensifies, I propose a new index for assessing the desperation of municipalities. Let’s call it the School Bus Hucksterism Index, or SBHI. This scientifically calculated number will represent the number of school districts nationwide that have begun selling advertising space on their school buses, multiplied by the aggregate number of ads and the average revenue per bus.
What was once a bizarre novelty – advertising on school buses – is becoming the new normal in many school districts. It is an ominous sign of a great decline of our civic identities and commitment to place. As the NYT reported this week:
“Cash-hungry states and municipalities, in pursuit of even the smallest amounts of revenue, have begun to exploit one market that they have exclusive control over: their own property. With the help of a few eager marketing consultants, many governments are peddling the rights to place advertisements in public school cafeterias, on the sides of yellow school buses, in prison holding areas and in the waiting rooms of welfare offices and the Department of Motor Vehicles.”
The idea got its start in Colorado in the 1990s, and was picked up by Texas, Arizona, Tennessee and Massachusetts. Now Utah has begun selling ads on the sides of it school buses and at least eight other states are considering doing the same.