Ask anyone involved with the public education system and they will tell you, the road to school funding is an uphill journey, littered with obstacles.
With that in mind, Stephenville Independent School District's assistant superintendent of business and finance presented the board of trustees with an option Monday that could allow the district to profit from the journey and the vehicles used to travel the road.
Deborah Hummel said as SISD continues to cope with the state's funding system, she will continue to present the board with every potential funding opportunity that is not currently being utilized by the district.
One of those ideas - school bus advertising - was discussed at the meeting and was met with mixed opinions. The board appeared united on the idea that SISD must think creatively in the attempt to capture needed funds, but most also agreed that the idea of being forced to capitalize on student transportation was infuriating.
"I'm old-fashioned, but I think school buses should be school buses and nothing else," board member Ora Lee Leeth said.
The rally cry of school boards across the state - "Something has to be done about school funding!" - echoed through the board room Monday.
But Superintendent Dr. Darrell Floyd said a fix to Texas school funding does not currently appear to be the No. 1 priority on lawmakers' agenda, and SISD can't sit and wait for legislators to fill in the potholes. Floyd said as legislators meet in January, they will mainly focus on "one ominpresent issue" - redistricting.
"Education will be put on the back burner," Floyd said, citing Texas lawmakers.
According to Hummel, if school bus advertising is approved by the board in the future, SISD will incur no costs from the advertising campaign.
"There is no cost to the district," she said.
Hummel presented information from three advertising companies that offer school districts and area businesses the opportunity to grab the attention of a captive audience - merry motorists making their way across the county.
The idea is to utilize the visibility of school buses and transform them into rolling billboards.
How much could SISD gain from the venture? Hummel said three companies - Truckin' Ads, Alpha Media and Steep Creek Media - returned varied potential revenue gains.
Truckin' Ads (www.truckinads.com) projected the highest potential return - as much as $190,000 in revenue roll in three years.
Hummel said she favored the Truckin' Ads option since the company anticipated higher profits for the district and offers vinyl ads that are delivered to SISD and affixed to the buses locally.
According to information from Truckin' Ads, the company is new to the school bus market but has used the same concept in the tractor trailer market for some time. A representative of the company is expected to present further details on the funding opportunity at the board's December meeting.
Alpha and Steep Creek's ads are painted on buses so they would be out of service until the paint job is complete.
Alpha (www.schoolbusadvertising.com) estimates SISD could see potential earnings of $40,000 in the first four years while Steep Creek projected a $46,575 annual revenue boost.
Alpha is an established company which has its billboards rolling across several school districts including Dallas, Irving, Hubbard, Redwater, Cedar Hill and Brazosport.
Steep Creek (www.steepcreekmedia.com,) is most commonly seen in districts in and around Harris County including Cy-Fair, Aldine, Spring, Huffman, New Caney and Eanes.
According to www.themonitor.com, the Humble School District has had ads on its school buses for years and profited nearly $180,000 the first year.
Meanwhile, an article published by the Associated Press in mid-October asked if school bus advertising could be the answer to school funding woes.
According to the article, about half a dozen states, including Colorado, Arizona, Florida, Minnesota, Tennessee and Texas, currently allow school bus advertising. But the idea is being met with nationwide scrutiny.
"Why not just have teachers wear a uniform similar to NACAR drivers?" John Green, supervisor for school transportation at the California Department of Education, asked in the AP article. "Even though that's kind of a joke, my point is, why single out the school bus? Why not paint a billboard alongside the school?"
For Hummel, all ideas are at least worth considering. She said school districts are trapped by dead-end funding, and will have to continue to think outside of the box to find a clear path.