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Friday, January 25, 2008

Horry schools ponder ads in buses
Posted on Fri, Jan. 25, 2008
State gives districts option to sign with vendors
By Claudia Lauer
The Sun News

Advertisements targeting school-age children could be making their way to Horry County school buses.
The S.C. Education Department has given the OK to school districts to start the advertising program under a general contract it signed with SAC Inc., an advertising firm in Warrenville, at the end of November.

"The state has given us the option, and we had a meeting with the advertising vendor that was purely informational," said Teal Britton, Horry County Schools spokeswoman. "There are lots of things that are yet to be determined, in terms of what the financial benefit would be to school districts."

The advertising company's contract with the state specifies that SAC will receive 20 percent of the revenue for each ad; the state, about 80 percent.

"The way the contract works is 80.1 percent of the gross income goes to the state technically because the state owns the property," said Don Tudor, director of the state Education Department's transportation office. "We recognize that these revenues should be appropriately shared with the school district. It is not the state who will be responsible for determining if the advertising is appropriate, and it's the children that make the advertising valuable."

Tudor said the Education Department is trying to determine what an appropriate split of the money with school districts would be. Schools pay 40 percent of the transportation budget for buses, he said, so the Education Department started with the understanding that they would give the schools at least 40 percent of advertising revenues.

"No number has really gotten a sign-off from the state superintendent," Tudor said. "If all of the advertising were sold and the state were to split the potential revenues 50-50, Horry would stand to make about $300,000 a year. Quite frankly, we don't know that they [SAC] can sell the ads and that it will generate that income. If the schools decide it's too much trouble, they can end their agreement."

Tudor said the Education Department hopes to have preliminary revenue-percentage numbers worked out by today. The official percentage split will be decided by the General Assembly during budget talks in the next few months, he said.

Britton said the school district would not consider the advertising until after the revenue split was decided. She said there are other issues that are harder for the district to resolve.

"Where children are captive audiences, is it appropriate to subject them to advertising that isn't necessary? That's a question that this raised for us," she said. "Is this an appropriate thing to place inside of an educational environment?"

Britton said the school district had no immediate plans to move forward with the advertising.
The one-year contract signed by the state Education Department includes four, additional one-year renewal options. The contract specifies that school districts would be given the option of allowing the advertising and if they did allow it, the districts would be responsible for determining what material was appropriate for students, Tudor said.

"If the school district wanted to, it could say we don't want fast food advertisements or carbonated beverage advertisements. It really is at their discretion, or it could even be set up so that it's at the discretion of school clusters or individual schools," he said.

SAC Inc. representative Stuart Carpenter said in an e-mail Wednesday that businesses have already shown interest in the advertisements.

"Recently we have been doing test sales" in the Myrtle Beach area. "We have interested advertisers from your average local business [restaurants, etc.], all the way up to major universities," Carpenter wrote.

Tudor said the advertisements would be placed inside the bus above the windows. They will be the width of a window and no more than 11 inches tall. They would be easily removable with a heat gun, he said. SAC Inc. would be responsible for upkeep and installation. Tudor said the company might explore an option in which it would pay a stipend to local parent-teacher organizations to help with that upkeep.

"First, I don't know that the advertisements themselves will be something that we feel is appropriate. Second, [the maintenance] is not something I think we would be interested in," said Carla Ivey, president of Myrtle Beach Elementary School's parent-teacher organization.

"I don't think they realize the amount of work we already do. I don't know that if we added something to our list of responsibilities, that we would want it to be something that didn't involve helping our children's education."

Contact CLAUDIA LAUER at 626-0301 or

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