AISD board OKs placing ads on some school buses

Advertisements will begin appearing on the sides of some Austin ISD school buses in the fall as the result of a recent contract approval by the district's board of trustees.

Board President Vincent Torres said the idea was suggested by community members more than a year ago when AISD was seeking funds to offset state budget cuts. He said Austin residents will likely begin seeing the ads in the fall following the board's May 20 approval of a three-year agreement with Steep Creek Media LLC.

The Houston-based advertising and publishing firm will place ads on about

10 percent of AISD's fleet of more than 400 buses, and the ads will bring in an estimated $43,200 in revenue during the first year. By the third year, the firm will aim to place ads on about 200 buses and bring in about $216,000, according to SCM owner Cynthia Calvert.

"A lot of eyeballs are on those signs," Calvert said, explaining that ad sizes range from high-visibility signs above bus windows to eye-level signs on the side of a bus. SCM has implemented the program in more than 35 districts including Eanes, Cy-Fair and Houston ISDs.

The board vote was 7-1-1. Trustee Jayme Mathias opposed, and trustee Tamala Barksdale was absent from the dais.

"My perspective is that our children are bombarded by a great amount of advertising," Mathias told the trustees. "The question is do we want to go that extra step of putting advertising on our school buses— that is to say, I simply raise the question, 'Are there any sacred places left?'"

Mathias said he was also concerned with ad content. Calvert said SCM will work with the district to ensure ads are "family-friendly," and the ads cannot promote religious institutions, tobacco or alcohol, political parties or "businesses that promote body art services," among other establishments. The district will have the final say on all ads, she said.

"We want ads that are informative to our students, that help promote a healthy lifestyle, healthy environment [and a] strong desire to be a good student. We think there are a lot of ads out there that can fill our school buses with those types of promotions," Torres said.

The ad revenue is not yet earmarked for a potential use, but instead will go into the general fund, Torres said.