Sea Isle City Elementary School eighth-grader Molly Larkin boards the bus at the end of last school year. Dale Gerhard

Gov. Chris Christie enacted a law Thursday allowing advertisements on school buses.

The bill allows municipal boards of education to contract for advertising space on buses that they own or lease, so the law would not affect districts that contract with private bus companies. The law does not allow private companies to put ads on their buses.

It will be several months before local boards will know exactly what size and type of advertising they can solicit.

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Locally, large districts such as Egg Harbor Township and Vineland are among those that could consider advertising. EHT transportation coordinator Warren Fipp said Thursday he expects the school board to discuss the issue. He is waiting to see how state regulations would limit the size and location of the ads, and if ads on buses have had any impact in other states.

Fipp has previously said that he could understand how school boards might want to consider ads, especially if gas prices continued to rise. Under the law, 50 percent of the revenue from the ads would have to be used to offset fuel costs, with the rest going for other district programs. But Fipp said he also has concerns about the ads distracting drivers.

Currently about a half-dozen states allow ads on school buses, including Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, Tennessee and Texas.

The advertising has been opposed nationally by the Committee for a Commercial Free Childhood, which charges that they exploit a captive audience of children who are particularly vulnerable to marketing's harmful effects.

The New Jersey law prohibits advertising for tobacco or alcohol products or for political advocacy. The state Board of Education also may establish other restrictions, and local boards must approve all ads on their buses.

Legislators who sponsored the bill said they wanted to give local boards another source of revenue.

"With other states generating as much as $1,000 per bus, this law is designed to increase revenue for school districts to provide needed services," said Assemblywoman Connie Wagner, D-Bergen, a primary sponsor of the bill.

The bill's co-sponsor, Assemblywoman Joan Voss, D-Bergen, said given the state's current fiscal crisis, any mechanism that may increase a school district's revenue without hurting the children's education should be explored.

Districts already are working on their 2011-12 budgets, but will not be able to count on school bus revenue right away.

Under the law, the state Board of Education still must establish and approve specific regulations on the size and type of advertising that will be allowed, a process that typically takes several months.

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