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March 12, 2014

ANOTHER VIEW: Ads on the sides of school buses?

Ads on the sidesof school buses?

Ads on the sides of school buses do not constitute a sign of the apocalypse. Western civilization will survive.

The reason such a once-unthinkable concept may soon become a reality in Indiana does represent a big problem, though.

State government leaders have failed to properly fund something as basic and important as public-school transportation. They have taken fiscal austerity and conservatism to a pathetic extreme.

Those “reformers” — dominant for the past decade — effectively choked off adequate funding for school districts to operate their buses. Caps on property taxes, enacted by an understandably popular referendum in 2010, saved Indiana property owners $704 million on tax bills last year, but also drained $245 million in funds that Hoosier schools relied upon for buses and other high-cost items.

As a result, cash-strapped Muncie schools tried a local referendum to help pay for their buses, but voters said no.

So the Muncie district asked the state Department of Education for permission to end the school bus service it could no longer afford. The state said no.

Has anyone in the Statehouse read “Catch 22”?

With no alternatives, school districts came up with the idea to allow advertisements on their buses. Creative? Yes. Desperate? Yes.

After losing a half-million dollars in bus funds last year because of property tax caps, Zionsville school administrators pushed their local legislators to craft a bill to allow the ads. House Bill 1062, alive in the current General Assembly, would create a pilot program granting three school districts the rights to splash ads on buses next school year. Zionsville officials have no idea how much money the ads will generate, but they need any and all new revenue. If it works, schools around Indiana may join in.

Is this what we’ve come to as a state?

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