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Originally published Sunday, January 31, 2010 at 4:00 PM

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Selling out school kids

The Seattle Times says state legislators ought to nix a plan allowing advertisements on school buses.

A RESOUNDING "No" ought to greet bills in the state Legislature proposing advertisements on school buses.

What are lawmakers thinking? Yes, they face dire fiscal circumstances in Olympia; the state is $2.6 billion in the hole. But children should not be the default move in a budget-cutting exercise.

Sen. Paull Shin, D-Edmonds, sponsored the Senate version and touts school-bus ads as an innovative revenue source. But there's nothing new or innovative about commercializing every aspect of childhood, including the bus ride to and from school. Debates about the revenue schools derive from vending machines and athletic-field sponsorships are reminders of this.

Supporters estimate large school districts could make more than $100,000 annually on bus ads.

The lure of using schools as revenue sources presents a slippery slope. Someone would eventually argue that school buildings, the auditorium and even the chemistry labs are prime advertising territory. Where would it end?

The ads would supposedly only promote educational programs or materials and could not be placed on the front or rear of any school bus. But appropriate safety concerns remain. What happens when a driver reading the Sylvan Learning Center ad on the side of a school bus rear-ends the car ahead, or worse, hits the bus?

It is doubtful there could be enough safeguarding language placed into this bill to make the idea palatable.

Lawmakers: Steer away from a road too easily traveled and find smarter, more dignified ways to fund K-12 education. That is, after all, the task of adults in Olympia, not kids on buses.

Some will argue that a precedent has been set with advertising on city buses. That's a crosstown transfer that doesn't work. A clear line has been drawn. Leave school buses alone.

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